Category Archives: History

Posts about history and the profession of history

Is this Digitopia?

In the future, we’ll all be curators. Sean Takats’ recent post looks again at how access to information changes out work. If readers will forgive some geezerish ramblings, I’ll recall what it was like back in the early 1990s, when I could reasonably have been called a digital media pioneer, and consider how new media […]

Electrifying the Middleman

You know those ubiquitous  “wall warts” that clutter up your outlets and power strips? Do you know what they’re doing? They’re reducing the voltage and converting AC to DC. Imagine electricity as a flow of water–it starts in a pond, gets pumped out into pipes, gets used by people on the way, and returns eventually […]

I hear America Singing in a Mask

American singing–a distinctively American style, not imitating formal styles from Europe–starts with white guys in blackface. The first distinctive American style of music, known to most people through virtually any Stephen Foster songs or a song like Dixie,originated in the minstrel show. There’s really no way around it: American popular music starts as the soundtrack […]

Performing Government in the New Deal

FDR, and the New Deal, were especially good at “performing” government. They even managed to stage a gigantic piece of “security theater” the gold vault at Ft. Knox. FDR had a genius for government as theatrical performance. In 1924, Congress voted to give WWI veterans a “bonus” as thanks for their service, payable in 1945. As […]

The Death of the Page

You can see it coming: “pages,” as a form of citation, are dead. And you can see why. With an electronic text, the reader can change the font size almost without limit. That makes pagination useless, and probably obsolete. In English “page” has multiple related meanings. The word can mean a young male servant as […]

The Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing

The United States spends 663,255,000,000 on defense. It’s 43% of world military spending. To put it in perspective, our nearest rival,  China, accounts for only 6.6.% of world military spending. We spend over seven times more per year than our nearest rival. We were spending that much, roughly, before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan–despite […]

Guest Post: Defending Current Practice

My friend and colleague Matt Karush has consistently argued that the present system has more merit than people like me want to recognize. I asked him to write a post describing his concerns, and so below, the first guest blogger at theaporetic.   As I have listened to some of my colleagues press for the […]

Academic Editor, 2.1

My post on “academic editing 2.0” generated some heat in the comments, and some misunderstandings. What I was proposing is actually really conservative, and aimed at preserving and strengthening the profession. Among the gamut of digital possibilities it would have to be counted as timid, modest and cautious. Let me try to be more clear. […]

The New Libertarian Mercantilists

“Mercantilism” describes the economic philosophy prevailing at the time of New World Settlement. One of the key idea of mercantilism held that wealth was finite. “Wealth” consisted of tangible physical goods, especially land and precious metals. The world contained only so much gold or silver, only so much fertile land or forests; only so much […]

The Marginalia “Crisis:” now with update!

Today’s New York Times has an article on marginalia–the scribblings people often leave on the edges of books. “Some fear dim future for notes in margins,” says the headline. “Some” may fear this, or it may be that “some, facing deadline pressure, invent fake trend story.” Marginalia is overrated, and the enterprise of loving marginalia […]