Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wedgwood loses its competitive edge, goes under after 250 years

As Judith Flanders says in an interesting history of a sinking company:

The company is in trouble because it has long forgotten the lessons of one of its founders: Josiah Wedgwood, among the greatest and most innovative retailers the world has ever seen. If the modern operators of Wedgwood, which was merged with Waterford Glass in 1986, had shown a tenth of Josiah’s intuitive grasp, his flair, his zest for selling, it would not now be dying.

Today when most people think of Wedgwood, they think of bridal registries and those dusty-looking blue-and-white jasperware plates that no one knows what to do with. But things were once very different.

Josiah was an unlikely hero. He was the 13th child of an impoverished potter; a childhood case of smallpox left Josiah with a bad leg that was later amputated, making it impossible for him to turn a potter’s wheel. But if he could not physically throw a pot, he could — and did — find new ways to get goods to market. He threw himself into various schemes to improve roads and canals. And, more fundamentally, he developed new ways of selling. Most, if not all, of the common techniques in 20th-century sales — direct mail, money-back guarantees, traveling salesmen, self-service, free delivery, buy one get one free, illustrated catalogues — came from Josiah Wedgwood.
According to one listing, Wedgwood is one of the richest 200 people to ever live in Britain, and one of the very few of those to acquire his wealth by hard work and ingenuity.

Image: 1787 emancipation medallion produced by Wedgwood.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Medieval soldier of the month

I am currently at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo.

Yesterday I was at a session based on the online database The Soldier in Later Medieval England, and one of the directors reminded me that there is a feature called Medieval Soldier of the Month. Go here to see May's soldier, Walter, 5th lord Fitzwalter of Little Dunmow, Essex.

Back to the conference!

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Job satisfaction

I am now in the home stretch of my grading of winter term final examinations. This is the part of academic life teaching professors hate the most, and it is grueling. It is very difficult to be consistent and fair when you're reading similar material time and again, and there is no mistake so gruesome or flabbergasting that somebody will not eventually make it on the paper you are grading.

But this year, grading exams that are made up of short or long essay questions, I am feeling a good deal of job satisfaction. Grading these essays has assured me that the courses I presented succeeded in inspiring some insight and even passion in some of my students. It's hard to say how much they got from me, or how much is original in their thinking, but actually I don't care what the balance is. Students who never had much reason to think about medieval English or ancient history, I guess, have presented me with evidence that they found things in the course material that they actually cared about.

I've done my job.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, March 31, 2008

Heroes of medieval historical research

Perhaps because I am teaching communism at the same time as the history of medieval England, I am minded to award to my students in HIST 3425 the heretofore unheard of award, "Heroes of Medieval Historical Research, Undergraduate Class," for unprecedented efforts in tackling the Parliamentary Rolls of Medieval England.

PROME is a wonderful resource, a CD/online searchable edition of all the medieval records of parliament from the beginning until they stopped using rolls and started using codices. By then you are well into Tudor times. Nipissing University allowed me to acquire a site license to PROME and so I was able to assign my Medieval England students an essay based on these valuable primary resources. They just finished that assignment.

They are not heroes because they did well on the assignment (how well they did is not your business) but because their diligence in research showed up on the site statistics of the online version of PROME. The publishers (see link above) noticed and wrote to their contact at the NU Library and said, who's making such substantial use of our material? (They were very pleased.) My students had beat the entire scholarly world for the month of March!

Congratulations, heroes!

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 24, 2008

HIST 2055 and 3425: Final exam study sheets

HIST 2055 and HIST 3425. The sheet for HIST 1505 will follow soon.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Palace of Westminster --developing before your very eyes!



A friendly contributer to the medieval history list Mediev-L has just alerted me to an online "film" of the development of the Palace of Westminster, the home of the UK Parliament and one of the most historical sites in Britain. Well worth taking some time with.

I'm not quite sure who is responsible for this site. It may be a commercial site and other such presentations may be available from the home page.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Terror victim's body found


Just as my course on Medieval England got up to the reign of Edward II, what should come out in the news but the identification of a medieval corpse at Hulton Abbey, Staffordshire as that of Sir Hugh Despenser the Younger, a great favorite of Edward II, who was executed by "drawing and quartering" in 1326. "Drawing and quartering" was a horrible process which involved disembowlling the victim while still alive, and it was reserved for notable traitors.

The news articles are emphasizing that Edward II was possibly gay and Sir Hugh may have been his lover. In yesterday's lecture I emphasized that Edward was a man constitutionally addicted to listening to and favoring a small number of intimate friends while ignoring everyone else in the kingdom, including his wife and his "natural advisors," the earls and great lords. Sir Hugh and his father of the same name used their position to make themselves rich by plundering the heritages of others' families. This as much as any sexual transgressions made them hated, to the point that Queen Isabelle was able to use their behavior as a reason to overthrow the king in favor of his teenaged son, Edward III.

So why am I calling the greedy and vicious Hugh the Younger a "terror victim?" Note that I didn't say he was an innocent victim of terror. His execution, however, was meant as an object lesson: Lords and gentlemen, don't try to duplicate his illegitimate power! The Telegraph article I linked to above tells readers that he was executed before a "mob," to teach a lesson to the "masses." Well, I think however many people were present, and whatever their station in life, the main lesson was meant for the very restricted political class of England; mere disrespectful nobodies might get in trouble but they would not be given Sir Hugh's elaborate treatment.

Also, I have a problem with the word "mob." Its use implies that the members of it are the scum of the earth. Possibly true, but often not the scum you are thinking of. Many mobs are led by people with big political ambitions, or their direct henchmen, or henchmen of henchmen.

I remember about 20 years ago reading about the Toronto mob that destroyed the print shop of the reform newspaper of William Lyon Mackenzie in the 1830s. That mob was made up of members of the colonial governor's council, or their hangers-on. A zillion similar examples can be found in other eras and places, once one puts away the illusion that "mobs" are made up of opportunistic ordinary criminals.

I'll bet the mob of 1326 was, on average, a really well-dressed group.

Image: A 15th-century depiction of this execution from a ms. of Froissart's Chronicles.

Promoted from comments:


Phil Paine adds:

I recently read a half dozen books on the phenomenon of lynching. It's foundation in political culture rather than "human nature" seemed pretty obvious. During a period in which there were more than 3,000 lynchings recorded in the U.S., there were zero in Canada, and thorough efforts have been made to find them. The only known event was a case where an American probably murdered his wife, then organized a lynch mob to pursue a 14-year-old boy across the border into Canada, where he was tortured and then hanged. Subsequent evidence makes it clear that the boy was a diversionary scapegoat.

What leaps out of the evidence, but seems to escape the notice of the historians, is that time after time it is clear that the "lynch mob" was planned, organized, and lead by a local bigwig --- a wealthy landowner, merchant, or politician. For example, in the case cited above, the leader of the mob was a wealthy local citizen who later became a State Senator. In the west, the typical "classic lynchings" were lead by wealthy cattlemen seeking to dispose of farmers or small ranchers who wouldn't sell their land. The great wave of lynchings in the South, starting in the 1830's, were aimed at shutting down newspapers that might be sympathetic to abolitionism. Lynchings were organized by prominent southerners, and included elaborate expeditions, going hundreds of miles into Northern states to kill free blacks or the editors of abolitionist newspapers. In one case, the "mob" organized an excursion train with reservations, and printed instructions.
Southern pro-slavery newspaper editorials created a systematic myth that these events were spontaneous expressions of "grass-roots democracy" or at least understandable excesses of human nature outraged by fear of crime. Many northern papers accepted this propaganda and echoed it. Few now realize that the Civil War was preceded by decades of terrorist raids on the North, organized by the wealthy elite of the South. That alone made the war inevitable.

Yet in most of the books I read, the authors seemed to ignore their own evidence, and clung to the notion that lynching expressed a spontaneous aspect of human nature, or was a sociological side-effect of the "frontier" and its supposed absence of legal infrastructure.

This delusion ignores the facts that 1) Canada, which was far more of a frontier society than the U.S. during the lynching era, had no lynchings 2) most cases of lynching involved an organized mob breaking into a jail, removing a someone who was in the hands of the law, and killing them, usually after extended torture (burning alive, etc) 3)people who had been found guilty and were going to be executed were lynched just as often as those where the case was not concluded. 4) the heaviest concentration of lynchings was in areas that were far from the frontier, often areas settled for centuries.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

HIST 3425 -- research paper assignment

HIST 3425
Medieval England

Second term research paper based on PROME

The last written assignment for this course is easy to describe. You will write an 8-10 page research paper based primarily on material from PROME.

The two easier choices of topic are these:

1) Using the Parliamentary Roll (PR) you investigated earlier, you will explain the historical and political context of the roll, and how the roll sheds light on the English politics of the time.

2) Using some topic raised in your PR, investigate that topic across the PROME collection, using more than one PR and by means of the built in search engine, plus secondary sources. Write a research paper based on your work. Note: you
can legitimately restrict your time range to one century or one or two reigns. When I graded your previous PROME assignment I wrote on it suggested topics that I found in your summaries. You can certainly come up with your own.

Another possibility:

3) Investigate a new PR or topic that did not come up in your chosen PR. There are a number of good PRs that no one read. Also some major events did not get touched on. For instance, numerous 14th and 15th century monarchs were deposed, and parliament was usually involved. Some good topics could come out of those PR accounts.

My apologies for not being able to post this on the NU web site: tech problems.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Losing the royal mausoleum


Today in the Medieval England class I talked about the major changes that took place in the reign of King John --

King John was not a good man
He had his little ways
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days
One thing I wanted to emphasize, but neglected, what with talking about Stephen Langton inventing the verse-numbering of the Bible, was an interesting indicator of how much John lost symbolically when he lost the Angevin counties along the Loire.

His father, Henry II, his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his brother, Richard Lionheart, were all buried at Fontrevault Abbey in Maine (?); John lost that region and is buried by himself in Worcester Cathedral in England.

All four have surviving effigies. John's is above; the other three can be seen as part of this slide show.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 21, 2008

PROME assignments, HIST 3425

As allowed in the course syllabus, the students in class in Medieval England agreed to a reallocation of second-term marks:

The preliminary assignment, now due a week from Wednesday, i.e. Jan. 30, is now worth 10% of the course grade.

The second term essay is now worth 20%; and is due March 5.

Labels:

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

HIST 3425, preliminary assignment, second term

If by some odd chance, some of you Medieval England students are looking here during the holiday, rejoice! I have finally posted the first part of the 2nd term assignment, which involves looking at the Parliamentary Rolls of Medieval England at the NU library site and using the record of one parliamentary sitting to answer a few basic, but not necessarily easy questions.

I had hoped that we could discuss this assignment on Monday, but that is looking less likely. Parts of the NU net are down, which makes PROME unavailable at the moment. Nevertheless, have a look at the assignment and especially what I have done with it.

What have I done?

I quickly realized that you students would have a very hard time extracting even the basics from these records. The modern English translations don't provide easy explanations of what legal terms mean, for instance, and though each parliament has an introduction by modern editors, I'm willing to bet that with just the background you have now, those introductions won't help much -- at least the first time through.

So what I did was add to the assignment sheet my own answers for the questions, based on the parliamentary roll for the April 1384 meeting. I actually found it pretty difficult to do this. I had to read the roll twice, and after that it took most of an afternoon to write up my answers (which include extensive quotations from the April 1384 roll).

Even if PROME continues to be unavailable, download and print out the assignment sheet and have a close look at it.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 21, 2007

The challenges of cultural history

Students of mine who have struggled to make sense of ancient or Anglo-Saxon history, when the evidence is severely limited, may be interested or amused at what seems to be a controversy about the origins of heavy metal music.

I was alerted to this debate by an article in the British newspaper the Guardian, in which Joe Queenan, commenting on a film documentary called Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, by Sam Dunn and Scott McFadyen, casts doubt on the filmmakers' contention that an obscure, one hit wonder band called Blue Cheer deserves to be recognized as the originators of heavy metal. I was flabbergasted that anyone should think this. We are talking about 1968, when I was about the age of many of my students now: in other words, the age when music really matters. I was a big fan of loud, "hard rock," "psychedelic" music and the San Francisco sound, and today when I read Queenan's article, I couldn't even dredge up the slightest memories of Blue Cheer (and no, it has nothing to do with my non-existent drug-taking). Though I remember their hit Summertime Blues, a cover of an earlier rockabilly (!) record.

But sure enough, you can find on the Web the many champions of the claim that these guys were the source of heavy metal (see, for instance, the Wikipedia entry for Blue Cheer). I don't buy it; if the patriarchs of metal are not Black Sabbath, then there are plenty of people in 1967-8 who contributed more to the metal sound. Let me cite only three: Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimi Hendrix. (As this web-site points out, Blue Cheer were pretty derivative of Hendrix.) I'm not excluding any influence, but others surely were more influential (Iron Butterfly, even maybe the pretty laughable in retrospect Vanilla Fudge).

Why is this on Early History? It strikes me that if we can't agree on something this recent and well-recorded as this phenomenon, how well can we do for the 8th century, or the 8th century BC? How many jokes, to take one point, lie undetected in our sources?

Yet despite our problems with determining facts and influences, I still say, Blue Cheer, bah. Just look at that album cover.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

No surrender!

All the exams I give are preceded by a study sheet which includes all the possible questions. Given that there will be no surprises, I tell my students that all they really have to do is not give up prematurely.

Students in HIST 3425 (Medieval England) were pretty diligent today, writing right up to the deadline! I certainly appreciate the effort.

Labels:

Monday, November 26, 2007

My Beowulf review

My review of the Beowulf movie isn't going to be very long. It wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be in the first five minutes or so. The initial emphasis on special effects ("Lookit what I can do, mom!") I found really tiresome (I liked the battle with the dragon later, fantastic as it was) and I wasn't very keen on the drunken Hrothgar. However, I did not want to leave the theater at any point after that. Not too bad for a Hollywood movie; but despite its pretensions (Neil Gaiman! Neil Gaiman!) it was a pretty much a Hollywood movie.

Rather than say more, I'll refer you to the three best reviews (best in the sense of being the most thoughtful and in-depth), at least two of them by Anglo-Saxonists (one's pseudonymous). These are not humorless, uptight specialists. One was delighted to say, for instance,

Angelina Jolie is doing philology!!! Angelina Jolie is doing philology naked!!!

(Does it get any better than that?)
but all three share the conviction that movie scriptwriters seldom have the subtlety of the medieval sources they sometimes plunder. Hardly news, that.

Here are the three reviews:

Michael Drout at Wormtalk and Slugspeak
Richard Scott Nokes at Unlocked Wordhoard
Dr. Virago at Quod She

And if you want more, see an earlier comment on this blog.

Labels: , ,

Friday, November 23, 2007

Historical treasures, imagined and real


Over at Blogenspiel, Another Damned Medievalist has posted Carnivalesque XXXIII, a collection of links to interesting Ancient/Medieval items from recent blogs. Aside from cutting remarks about Beowulf and Neil Gaiman's role in it (go look it up!), there is a fine item from Tony Keen on what he'd like to see recovered from Pompeii if further digs discover more lost literature on the lines of the Greek library already found there. Posts like this can be tiresome but I liked Tony's so much that I followed his link to a post by Mary Beard, who earlier asked her readers for their wish lists.

It may seem that this wishing is ridiculously unrealistic. Well, wishes almost never come true in the way you'd like them to. But this week has shown that the unexpected can occur in a stunning manner. At least, I was stunned by two discoveries.

The first was a seemingly 7th-century royal cemetery in the North of England, the only such, with some individual pieces reminiscent of the Sutton Hoo material from East Anglia. This is really hot stuff, which will be analyzed for a long time to come.

Even better, if you are interested in Rome, is the apparent discovery of the Lupercale in Rome. To quote the Guardian, it's

a large vaulted hall beneath the Palatine hill ... almost certainly the fabled Lupercale - a sanctuary believed by ancient Romans to be the cave where the twin boys Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf.
The Guardian site has some video footage. You see, the cavern is in bad shape, and has only been seen via a probe-camera inserted from above. Watching it, you can imagine the excitement of the archaeologists and technicians who first saw it. The lead archaeologist, Andrea Carandini, said it's ""one of the greatest discoveries ever made" and whose to say that's wrong?

One story I saw said this shrine was accessible until the 16th century. Does any reader know more about this, and how the Lupercale was lost?

Let's call this Good News Friday and leave it at that.

Image: The English finds, from the BBC story.

Labels: , , , ,

Common questions about the term tests

I'm excerpting a letter I got from a student in HIST 2055, Ancient Civilizations, and answering the writer's questions here for others in this course and the other two:

First of all, I was wondering if all of the terms and essays will be on the exam, or if you are selecting a few from the given list to actually be on the exam.

I will be choosing a number of terms and essay topic from those I put on the study sheet.

Also, I have started preparing the essays, and I was wondering if you wanted the essay to address the questions which were at the top of the lecture notes and extra readings or is there another format you would like us to follow.

In HIST 2055 and 3425 the essay questions are based on source material we looked at in class, and in preparation for class discussion I suggested some questions to think about. It wouldn't hurt to look at those questions again, but you aren't restricted to reacting to them only. After a term of lectures and discussion, you may have a good idea of your own to write about.

And last, but not least, are the actual documents going to be on the exam, or just the titles and we create our essay from what we know!
The documentary material that was on the study sheet will also be on the exam paper.

Labels: , ,

Monday, November 19, 2007

Study sheet for Medieval England term test


It's here!

Image:
Ruins of Lindisfarne Priory on the site of Lindisfarne Abbey.

Labels:

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bayeux Tapestry, in still form and animated

The most interesting source for the Norman Conquest of England is the huge embroidery project known as the Bayeux Tapestry. In Medieval England (HIST 3425) we'll be looking at highlights of this fascinating "graphic history;" for those who want to prepare, or for random readers passing by, I list these links to online versions:

Pictures of the whole embroidery (thumbnail index).

A condensed animated version, with an impressive soundtrack.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dating Beowulf part III

Michael Drout finds a few moments to argue for late dates for Beowulf.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dating Beowulf part II

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dating Beowulf: a scholarly treat

This is not about "dating" in the usual sense, or Nekkid Beowulf or Nekkid Grendel's mother, but about the debate over the date that the Old English epic Beowulf was written. (A five hundred year range has been suggested, and none of the possibilities are completely without merit!)

Some years ago, Michael Drout, an eminent expert on Old English literature and J.R.R. Tolkien, found that even high school kids with only the vaguest notion of the story could get excited about this issue. (I think that this says something about Drout's style.) So, in what should probably be called the "Year of Beowulf," he is blogging at Wormtalk and Slugspeak about the various possibilities. Part one of Dating Beowulf is here.

And it is a scholarly treat. I hope it amuses others as well.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Beowulf basics in preparation for the Beowulf movie


This is the year of naked and semi-naked heroes and villains in Hollywood movies of classic historical and legendary stories. First 300 on the Persian War, upcoming Beowulf, a big-budget version of the best Old English poem. Because these really are classic stories, there's been a lot of debate about them, even though we still only have trailers for Beowulf.

If by some chance you are a little vague (or maybe a lot vague) on the story and the background of Beowulf, an expert Anglo-Saxonist and Tolkien scholar, Michael Drout, has a FAQ on Beowulf.

Thanks to Scott Nokes at Unlocked Wordhoard (one of the coolest blog names in the universe; see his explanation) for drawing my attention to Drout's piece. (BTW, see Drout's blog for another really amazing blog name.)

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Peace in their time

Despite the various civil and foreign wars that affected England in the 13th century, Michael Prestwich in English Politics in the Thirteenth Century (in the NU library) says those contemporaries who considered it, and especially Henry III's reign as a time of peace had some justification:

Not one [domestic?] political opponent of the crown was executed during the thirteenth century, a record not to be achieved again until the 19th century.

How can this success be explained? It was very important that men thought it was possible to achieve worthwhile ends by political rather than military ends...

The achievements were not the work of individuals alone: for all the imprecision of the concept, full credit must go to the community of the realm.

Image: Henry III's coronation.

Labels:

Monday, October 08, 2007

Richest Britons return -- now in book form

For quite a while -- since 1989, in fact -- the Times of London has published a Rich List which includes the richest 1,ooo people who live and work (if that's the word) in the UK. I have very little interest in that list. In 2000, however, the devisors of the Rich List tried to estimate the wealth of the richest 200 Britons since 1066. No easy matter, and maybe not possible at all! But they gave it a good try, not being satisfied with merely coming up with a rough monetary estimate of how much each person had, and adjusting for inflation. That would have been laughably useless. Rather, they estimated the total wealth of England or Britain, depending on what century they were working on, and then estimated how much of that national wealth each really rich person had. Finally they assigned them a total wealth in pounds sterling which would give them that share of Britain's total wealth now -- or, rather, in 2000.

The web version of this exercise is long gone, but now news comes that a revised book version will be out on October 15.

I can't tell whether you'll enjoy the book, but I'm going to shell out for it. The list is a great combination of people you've never heard of (like James Craggs, #19, died 1721, who made the equivalent of 21 billion pounds on army clothing contracts) and the much more famous (like Eleanor of Aquitaine). Of those I know, it really is remarkable how many died violently.

I guess that's less surprising when you reflect on how few of these people led productive lives, as opposed to being well-connected grafters or out and out plunderers. The first two on the list were among the Norman conquerors.

Image:
The murder of Thomas Becket (#13) as visualized in the mid-14th century.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Beowulf movie

I neglected to give a link to the upcoming Beowulf movie. Once again, it seems kind of pointless to put an image here, when the link leads to two trailers and a TV spot.

Update: And here, Nekkid Beowulf (I love Matthew Gabriele's comment).

Labels: , ,

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Epic (and) history

On Monday in the Medieval England course I will be discussing the Old English epic Beowulf as a source for early English life; on Tuesday I'll be discussing the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh for clues about early Mesopotamian culture. Coincidence? I guess, the courses were devised and first put on years apart. I don't think this conjunction has happened before.

I didn't assign reading for either lecture, but the ambitious among you can look up translations of each work on the Web.

For Gilgamesh, you may want to look at the section of the epic (one version thereof) where Gilgamesh fights Humbaba (Huwawa).

I've linked to the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, which is an attempt to make Sumerian literature, generally available in specialist editions stored in specialist libraries, move widely accessible, both in editions of the Sumerian texts, and in English translation. Since Sumerian is one of the most difficult of historic languages, this is a worthy enterprise.

For Beowulf, I found it harder to make a choice from the variety of on-line translations. So to give you an idea of the challenges of translating this poem, whose audience's expectations were so different from a modern one's, I include three links: to the opening of the poem, on great Danish kings of the past, translated by Tony Romano, to another version of the opening by somebody else (no back link!), and the section on Beowulf's battle with Grendel, translated by Sullivan and Murphy.

There are complete versions on the Web, too, but I'll leave that to the enthusiasts who want to know how the stories come out.

Image: Gilgamesh and Enkidu in superhuman combat.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, September 14, 2007

Beef and Liberty by Ben Rogers

A friend lent me this book with an enthusiastic recommendation, and I'm glad he did. Anyone who wonders about the origin of John Bull, or why Jack Aubery's sailors play the song "Roast Beef of Old England" before battle will enjoy this book. Likewise those who might want to know more about the comparative development of national cuisine in England and France, or the great era of the English satirical cartoon. Enjoyable and informative both.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, September 07, 2007

Welcome students!

I just met some of you yesterday, and I'll see the rest of you on Monday and Tuesday, so I guess it is time to say a few words about this blog.

Muhlberger's Early History was created as an informal addition to my courses at Nipissing University, though in the past year and a half it's grown to be a bit more than that (like most journals do). I try, however, to keep my students foremost in my thoughts as I add to it. Here's what you can expect to find here:

1. Those pesky but sometimes useful and interesting announcements that are constantly coming my way: "Please announce this to your classes." That's not a very efficient way to get the information across. It's better to do this:

I am writing to invite you to attend and participate in the 2nd Annual Welcome Pow Wow scheduled for Friday, September 14, 2007 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. It will be held outside the main cafeteria next to the pond (rain out location: Robert J. Surtees Athletic Centre).

The Aboriginal Learning Unit (ALU) of Canadore College and Aboriginal Services and Programs of Nipissing University are hosting this event to welcome students back to campus. As well, it is an opportunity for the campus community to participate in a social activity rooted in First Nation traditions.

Students, faculty and staff are invited to attend and participate in an event with traditional drumming, singing, dancing and food. Traditional drummers, singers and dancers (some of whom are our students) will be participating and you, the campus community are invited to join us.
2. Another kind of material is information directly related to the course material that occurrs to me during lecture or is just too long or tangential to fit into the scheduled class time. A great deal of it is in the news; you may be surprised how often history hits the various media outlets. Also there are plenty of well-informed people contributing short, medium and long pieces about subjects of historical interest.

Most of this material will be about "early history" since my specialty is medieval history and most of my teaching concerns the pre-railroad era (my personal definition of early, at least in a teaching context); however, since I sometimes teach right up the present (Islamic Civilization, this year's History of the Modern World), and have an interest in the world-wide history of democracy, recent events will creep in.

3. Finally, there will be more than a few entries that concern philosophical, historical, and political issues, either my thoughts or those of others on the web that I find interesting (not just those I agree with). I try to limit this material to avoid producing an unfocused personal blog, but on the other hand what use is a blog if it doesn't contribute occasionally to the Great Conversation?

Enough for now: To show you how this blog can be useful to you, I'm linking from here to the on-line lectures for HIST 2055 and HIST 3425 , so those of you who come here will see these resources just a little before everyone else.

Ancient History Lectures (still keyed to dates in 2000-1, I'm afraid; will fix.)

Medieval England Lectures (still says HIST 2425, a former course number for it; keyed to 2004-5.)

Labels: , , ,