Archive | April 2012

Yet more on academic publishing

I’m making last-minute preparations before I head off to England for a month (will be back in June). I don’t know how much I’ll post when I’m there – I’ll be extremely busy going through the libraries/archives at Oxford, Cambridge and the British Library. I do have a few posts scheduled to go out over the next week or two, so keep an eye on the blog. If you haven’t already, now’s a good time to sign up for the RSS feed.

In unrelated news, open-access seems to be picking up momentum in academia. Now Harvard’s faculty advisory council is warning that even Harvard can’t afford current journal subscription costs – their journal subscription costs now total $3.5 million per year and increase every year. The report mentions the usual abuses: providers bundling useful with many more less-used journals and thus charging a much higher price, 100%+ inflation rate for subscription costs, secret contract terms (don’t want different libraries comparing prices!), publisher profit margins of 35% for scholarship written by academics (whose research is usually funded with tax-payer-supported salaries and grants), peer-reviewed by other academics, and purchased for and read by other academics (the academic gift economy). Not to mention that with the e-versions you are only renting access to the journal; the library does not own a copy.

They also encourage the usual solutions: publishing in open-source journals, scholars resigning from editorial boards of journals that refuse to moderate their prices, insisting of different subscription models… If Harvard scholars start abandoning the journals, perhaps others will be empowered to do so as well.

Stay tuned…

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Suggestions for seeing Early Modern history in England

In about 1.5 weeks I’ll be on my way to a conference in Oxford (“Louis XIV Outside In“), combined with a month-long research jaunt at Oxford, Cambridge and in London. I have plenty of archival volumes to consult, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to query you all about your favorite early modern military ‘things’ to see in southern England. I only spent a few weeks in London during my dissertating phase (kinda like the pupal stage), so I didn’t have too much time to see much other than the National Army Museum.

So what should someone interested in EMEMH check out when they’re in England? One could obviously name the various museums, and obviously I’ll be checking out Blenheim Palace, but what I’m particularly interested in are specific items to be on the lookout for, not just a listing of various museums. For example, ‘the National Army Museum has a really cool ____’, or ‘there is an interesting example of early modern architecture at ____’, paintings or statues or reliefs of early modern rulers/generals (particularly equestrian or military), city gates, early modern memorials, walls which famous generals pissed on…

A few examples from past trips, just to give you an idea of the specificity I’m hoping to get:

  • Cannonballs (fired by the British during their bombardment) hanging in a Copenhagen church (Sankt Peter’s).
  • An early modern grenade-launcher attached to a carbine in Copenhagen’s Arsenal.
  • Plans-relief of northern French fortresses in the basement of Lille’s Palais des Beaux Arts.
  • Incongruous city gates towering in the middle of Paris (Portes de Saint-Martin and Saint-Denis).

Suggestions?

If you want to mention other interesting items outside of England, that’s ok too. If there’s interest, we could probably do a series, a country a month or something…

Olaf van Nimwegen on Dutch logistics

Edwin reminded me that Olaf van Nimwegen’s book on Allied logistics in the Low Countries during the War of the Spanish Succession has a lengthy English summary. So I’ve taken the liberty of posting it here, so that non-Dutch readers can see what they’re missing, and maybe it’ll encourage Olaf to get the book translated into English. The transcription is a quick-‘n-dirty OCR, so there may be a few formatting errors.

Olaf van Nimwegen, De subsistentie van het leger: Logistiek en strategie van het Geallieerde en met name het Staatse leger tijdens de Spaanse Successieoorlog in de Nederlanden en het Heilige Roomse Rijk (1701-1712), (Amsterdam: De Bataafsche Leeuw, 1995), 339-344. Read More…

New e-book source

Just got back from a conference on successful strategies that I’ll talk about in the future, but I also just discovered a new source for those rare old books that aren’t available on Google Books/EEBO/ECCO/Gallica that you’ve been searching for over the past decade with no luck.

The website is http://books2ebooks.eu/en, eBooks on demand. It currently consists of 30 European libraries combining their catalogs, and offering to sell digital (and/or print) copies of their holdings for a price. It looks like each library sets its own price, usually a flat fee plus an additional rate per page. I ordered a quite rare book last week, and the other day I received the pdf (you download it from their website).

To assuage any concerns you might have about the quality of the product, here’s a page of the book that I ordered from the Czech National Technical Library:

Title page of scanned book from eBooks on demand

This book was short, about 100 pages, so the cost was a moderate 652 Czech koruna, which I hope means only $35 or so.

So if you need that one very special book but can’t get to the library(-ies) where it’s held, this is another option. It especially works well if the book you want is a long book that would require a lot of time consulting in a reading room.

Viva la Revolución!

Don’t believe everything you see in the movies

For those of you who might still be confused about how logistics worked, Hollywood is not the place to find the answers. But then again, is it ever?

From Woody Allen’s Bananas!

Read between the lines!

For years I’ve been frustrated with the blatant Anglo-centric tone of almost all of the writing on the Duke of Marlborough, England’s “Greatest General.” I don’t think I need to mention that this writing is all in English, often written by former military professionals, and never looks at Dutch sources yet manages to savage them without mercy as ‘obstructionist’ allies.

I vented about this lazy tendency in my 2000 article on Ramillies, but I keep finding more and more examples of it. What’s even worse, the same over-the-top praise of Marlborough being a master tactician, master operational mind, master strategist, master logistician, master diplomat, master politician (okay, maybe not the last one so much) keeps getting repeated everywhere despite a number of important correctives – many of which are quite old, such as the works of Douglas Coombs and A.J. Veenendaal, Sr.

I feel, appropriately enough, like that little Dutch boy sticking his finger in the dyke, except the dyke is awfully leaky and I don’t have enough fingers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hans_Brinker_Madurodam.jpg

Hans Brinker, Madurodam (Wikipedia)

(This frustration only gets reinforced when John Stapleton and I start talking, since he was also at Ohio State working on a similar topic – the Dutch in the 9YW – and finding the same thing at the same time I was).

Read More…

The War continues

Another volley in the continuing legal skirmish between publishers and open-access educational materials. Now Pearson, Cengage and Macmillan are suing Boundless Learning for infringing their copyright by organizing their free textbooks (Econ, Psych and Biology) in a similar manner to the the publishers’ texts, possibly using similar features and illustrations, and specifically recommending them as free alternatives to the publishers’ texts.

I’m not qualified to judge the merits of the lawsuit, and I want to avoid reflexively rooting for Boundless Learning – it’s for-profit from what I can tell and they may be trying to mimic the pages of the other texts, presumably to sync up with assigned pages. But more broadly, if publishers can claim financial harm because others are making competing textbooks that follow the standard pedagogy of a discipline (which these publishers/authors did NOT create on their own), we’re in a world of hurt. Can the makers of a free version of a Western Civ textbook be sued because they create a book with separate chapters for the Ancient Near East (including an excerpt of Hammurabi’s Code and a photo of the pyramids), Greece (Plato excerpt and photo of Parthenon), Rome (Pliny and map of greatest extend of Empire), the Middle Ages (Crusades account and photo of medieval crucifix) and the Renaissance (Pico della Mirandola and a Da Vinci), put them in chronological order, and include maps of the various empires and timelines? Who exactly owns the copyright to that?

Story and comments at Inside Higher Ed: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/hack-higher-education/oer-textbook-startup-sued-publishers-copyright-infringement and at Chronicle of Higher Ed: http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/3-major-publishers-sue-open-education-textbook-start-up/35994

Reminder to self: Don’t use Pearson, Cengage and Macmillan texts in my classes.

My textbook order is now due for the fall semester, and I’m trying to minimize the purchased texts as much as possible, replacing them with online material (primary sources mostly) from Google Books and elsewhere. Plus I make my timelines and maps to give the students some reference materials as well. In fact, Wikipedia has some of the best historical maps I’ve seen for specific early modern periods, especially if you look at the non-English sites for their own histories (e.g. the Spanish-language Wikipedia for Spanish history).

Thoughts?