Monthly Archives: May 2012

Freedom IS Free

“Freedom is not free:” We hear this a lot. In the DC area, we hear it also in in the form of thousands of motorcycles that arrive ever Memorial Day, under the guise of “supporting” veterans and prisoners of war. 1 Freedom is free, though. If people are born with free will, if free will […]

book costs again

I’ve had some very interesting exchanges about “saving the AHA.” Just to revisit the idea, let’s imagine you wrote a very nice piece of very specialized research. The ready audience for the book is probably 1000 people, including academic libraries. Imagine you sent it to the AHA, and they sent it to reviewers who were […]

Saving the AHA

Recently a colleague recommended a book, an academic history, and I went to amazon to look for it. They were charging  $45 for the hardcover, $42.35 for the Kindle edition. I won’t mention the book, or the press, so no one is embarrassed, but I don’t have to–this is an increasingly common phenomenon. It took […]

Technology and individualism

I recently re-read C.J. Chivers book The Gun, a history of the Kalashnikov (the AK-47) and its American-made rival, the M-16. Basically the story goes like this: the USSR produced a weapon of hideous destructive power, an automatice rifle capable of shooting a LOT of bullets very quickly. It was made all the more hideous […]

Academic ethics and material necessity

At one time, not so long ago, access to archives was very scarce. It took time and money, discipline and focus; university affiliation and professional reputation, to get into special collections and archives and even the stacks of the Library of Congress. It took a socialization into a culture, a discipline. An historian would sit […]

The slave and the dollar.

The following is adapted from my book Face Value, which is supposedly coming out in May from the University of Chicago Press. In 1788, an anonymous satirist proposed using the body parts of black people as money, since their bodies were already for sale. To save trouble in “counting or calculating the value of this new […]