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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

History blogging

I have got just enough of a sore throat to squash my historical curiosity and there are very noisy builders in the flat just above me. So instead of discovering something new for myself I thought I'd have a look at the latest offerings from the other history bloggers who are linked to Cliopatria and Sharon's blog. There are many different kinds of history blogs. Some are general interest like mine whilst others focus on particular periods or issues. They also vary in tone from cosy chat over a cup of tea to high academic terminology. I hope that you will find one that inspires you to set up a history blog of your own.

In this post Kristine from Earmarks in Early Modern Culture explains why she recently started history blogging. She refers to Ivan Tribble who has been saying that blogging may not be a good idea for young academics who are looking for jobs. Blogging is very popular in the academic world, particularly among postgraduate students and people who have just started climbing up the career ladder. Kristine herself is a PhD student in the Netherlands, across the water in London Masters student Rob has been writing Detrimental Postulation, and veteran blogger Konrad (a Harvard PhD student) has been writing about East Asian history for years. Many young academics strongly believe that blogging is a powerful new tool for information exchange. There is one problem though. Academic careers depend on new research and having it tied to your name rather than claimed by somebody else. This makes many young academics very wary about putting their original research online before it has been published in paper journals. How much of an issue this is depends on the blogger's academic subject area. Some academic work is based around the interpretation of known information and theories. For these researchers blogs are an excellent sounding board for the development of their ideas. Other academics, particularly some historians, work in the archives for months and even years to find hard facts. They very wisely do not share those facts online before they have been able to do what they can with them in their own work. (I'm sorry if my syntax seems to be a bit clumsy here. The builders upstairs are distracting to say the least.)

There is a strong feeling among academic bloggers in North America that their knowledge equips them to comment on contemporary affairs. This is in the tradition of the public intellectual. It's very different in Britain where we tend to laugh hysterically at any academic who sticks his or her head above the parapet. These academic and post-academic bloggers all discuss contemporary events at least sometimes. They're not all North American either.

Now I have drifted away from my original intention which was to highlight recent history postings. I could be lazy and just refer you to Carnivalesque and the History Carnival, which both gather posts on a regular basis. However I have focused too much on academic bloggers and I wouldn't want you to think that they are the only ones who post about history. Natalie is a journalist, David (who I think writes for tv) often posts on historical subjects, this David is an art dealer and collector, Melinama is a musician and Flea (who doesn't write about history very often) sells sex toys. I don't know what Snowball does. It'd be interesting to draw up a list of history bloggers outside academia. I don't know whether it would be seen as divisive, creating a them and us mentality, or if it would be a kind of encouragement. The academic blogosphere is accessible to everybody but it does sometimes focus on specifically academic issues (like Ivan Tribble, how to get funding, how to publish, student plagiarism, the latest academic to disgrace him or herself etc. .) It'd be nice to read about people fitting in historical interests around their jobs in banking, SAHMing etc..I suspect there is already a network of non-academic history blogs out there. Most things seem to be catered for on the blogosphere, it's just a question of finding them.

Well here ends my rambling post. You'll be pleased to hear that the builders have stopped drilling (for now). Oh no, they've started again.

Edited to add:
Via Cliopatria: two more articles on whether blogging damages academic careers.


Blogger Snowball said...

I am not entirely sure what I do either, which is a little more worrying. Put me down as doing a part time PhD in History - plus working ('proper' work) plus pissing about on the internet too much.

I think on one level the nature of 'history' as all past events means that inevitably it is being discussed on one level everywhere on the net and by almost all bloggers. However, you are right - what is interesting is the degree that professional historians and anyone else who is interested in 'History' with a capital H discusses the past on blogs.

In perhaps fifty years time, it might be the case that all books are digitised and online. This is already happening and would amount to a revolution in communication - if access to the information became open to all. What will History look like then? Will a blog be a key tool for every historian in the future? Hmm.

7:19 pm  
Anonymous Jonathan Dresner said...

If you're looking for a broader history roundup, we've just started an Asian History Carnival.

6:12 am  

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