Archive | August 2015

Now why didn’t I think of that?

(Sometimes I’ll let the URL do the talking. First day of school and all that.)

Once again, I’m late to the party. I probably could’ve saved some money in England if I’d pretended to be the Duke of Marlborough. Would it have worked? Depends on whether much changed between the First and Twelfth Dukes.

Bonus points for the Fawlty Towers reference!

Love and Death

A new one for the Safe Sex Manual, from the Daily Mail (among others):

Couple fall to their deaths from Vauban Fort into the moat whilst having sex.

I must admit that I too had a close call once – slipping atop the Le Quesnoy ramparts on a rainy October day. I was, however, fully clothed. And the only erotic element of my tour was the slight frisson I experienced visiting one of Vauban’s creations.

And for those seeking historical accuracy: assuming the scene of the accident was the Fort Vauban (on one of Normandy’s Chausey islands), it was actually constructed in the 1860s. But when you’re famous, you get all sorts of things named after you.

Early Modern Military-Medical Complex

is what they’re calling a future special issue of the Canadian Journal of History.

To quote from the call:

For this thematic issue of the Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d’histoire we invite proposals for articles that will explore the changing relationships between early modern armed forces, medicine, society, and the state. Potential authors might want to consider topics such as the administration and treatment of patients in field hospitals and the operational relevance of field medicine, the institutionalization of military medicine and education as well as training and career paths in military medicine, and the relationship between military and civilian medicine and the role of military medicine in the formation of medical knowledge. This thematic issue will develop an international comparative perspective on early modern military medicine and the state.

Abstracts due 15 October. See here if you’re interested.


It seems everything is about representation these days.
Prak, Maarten. “Citizens, Soldiers and Civic Militias in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe.” Past & Present 228, no. 1 (August 1, 2015): 93–123.
(For those in the publishing biz who need it, the doi is 10.1093/pastj/gtv030)
First paragraph: One of the world’s best-known works of art of the early modern period has an uncomfortable relationship with current historiography. The subject matter of Rembrandt’s Nightwatch, created between 1640 and 1642, is amateur soldiers — but had these not become obsolete as a result of the Military Revolution? As it is, the figures in the Nightwatch are going through military procedures, closely following Jacob de Gheyn’s soldiers’ manual of 1607, even though it is quite clear that they are citizens, not soldiers. In the painting we see officers of an Amsterdam civic militia company on their rounds, depicted against the dark shape of a town gate.1 In seventeenth-century Amsterdam civic militias patrolled the city at night; one of their duties was to shut the gates, and to take the keys to the home of the presiding burgomaster. In the centre of the picture is the company’s commanding officer, Frans Banning Cocq, who, as the son of a German immigrant, was understandably proud of the status that he had achieved in his home town. He and his fellow-officers paid Rembrandt one hundred guilders each to have their portraits included. The painting was to be displayed in the doelen, or militia hall, where it could be viewed by members of their own and other militia companies, as well as by ordinary passers-by.2 A hundred guilders, the equivalent of four months of a labourer’s wages, for a portrait that would not become private property, was a substantial amount of money, suggesting how much importance was attached to the public presentation of one’s person in a militia context. ….

How to Produce, part II: Processing your results

Continuing with my never-ending quest for the perfect research workflow.

The processing stage of research is usually the most challenging, thought-intensive part of the research process. Because I have oodles of primary sources and feel compelled to use them in order to make robust generalizations, and because more sources generally increase the odds of finding exceptions to the rule, this is where my research tends to bog down. So it would seem particularly important to manage tasks here, and to match your time and energy level to the sources you’ll be reading. Read More…

How to Produce Research at a Teaching School

Yeah right, like I know the answer to that question. But it doesn’t mean I won’t speculate. And my speculations led to me develop the following strategies that should help one be a (more) productive scholar while teaching 3-4 courses per semester:

  1. Accept you won’t be that productive.
  2. Spend almost all your time working and thinking and writing.
  3. Avoid teaching many new courses (i.e. new preps).
  4. Design your research around small projects (articles, book chapters, encyclopedia articles, book reviews…).
  5. Design you research around edited projects. Let other people do most of the thinking and researching and you just get to react to it.
  6. Collect as many primary sources as you can, while you can. You never know when you’ll be able to get back into the archives.
  7. Design your research around questions that can be answered with published primary sources.
  8. Explore an old subject from a new angle or perspective.
  9. Recycle and renew half-written drafts from your past, even stretching back to grad school.
  10. Focus on subjects that aren’t incredibly popular, so as to avoid having to keep up with a large and ever-burgeoning literature.
  11. Focus on subjects that aren’t incredibly popular, so as to avoid getting scooped by PhD students and faculty at Research I institutions.
  12. Speed up parts of the research process through software (particularly bibliographic and note-taking).
  13. Analyze historiographical trends, by counting titles and keywords.
  14. Write crappy history. Specifically, avoid delving into the complexity of real human lives (and real human interactions), and instead generalize about an entire continent over a generation by referring to one published theoretical treatise on the topic, or one single case study.

Guess which one I choose? Actually all of the above, though I’d like to think I’ve avoided #14.

But now is the time to focus on:

16. Waste some of your time trying to figure out a way to systematize and atomize your research process, so that you can complete bits of your research during the normally-busy school year.

And how would one do this exactly? I don’t know, but here are my first ruminations on the puzzle. All framed by, you guessed it, that damn Getting Things Done cult. Read More…