The “real” and the digital in history

Just as cubism coincided with the theory of relativity, the “cultural turn” in history coincided with the rise of digital media. It’s not a coincidence. The postmodern or “cultural” turn coincided perfectly with the advent of digital archives. Both were “theorized” at about the same time (60s-70s), and both came into general use at about […]


Amazing What Politicians Used To Say

Obama gave his state of the union address last night–my morning commute was full of recap and commentary. It ran the gamut, as the joke goes, from A to B. We have two options: cut taxes and decrease spending, and cut taxes and decrease spending more. In that light, it’s interesting to see how American […]


Privacy and Corporate Personhood

The Supreme Court is now hearing the case of FCC vs AT&T, in which AT&T is attempting to thwart a Freedom of Information Act request into its records by claiming that it has privacy rights as a person does. My guess is the Court will side with AT&T and continue the trend of making corporations […]


Saving the AHA

Hello, fellow historians. Do you love the AHA, your profession association? No, me neither. And why not?  Because it appears to do little except organize a large and mostly disagreeable annual conference and publish the glossy, unusually sized American Historical Review, which you no longer have room for. It’s expensive to join. Its membership is […]


Virginia History Textbooks Continued

Our county, Arlington, has announced they will pull Our Virginia from the classroom “until a corrected digital edition becomes available, probably at the end of this month.” It’s better than doing nothing, but it’s really not a good result. The County will go back to the same company, Five Ponds Press. Five Ponds will remove […]


Those VA History textbooks

There has been a lot of reporting  about the many many errors in the history texts used in the  Virginia public schools, including the really nasty one about the black confederates but many many more.  But what’s really terrible about it isn’t the wrong dates. It’s the complete lack of historical argument. I spent some […]


Individualism

“If America ceases to be exceptional,” says Newt Gingrich, “it will have lost its core values of individualism, liberty, and the rule of law.” It’s not clear what this means: I think it means “America is exceptional because it has the core values of individualism, liberty, and the rule of law.” But all societies have […]


The American History of Santa Claus

Before the Civil War holidays weren’t like they are now. Different regions celebrated different holidays, following local ethnic and regional traditions. There were religious holidays, there were sundry fall and spring festivals. But just as every city, village, and town kept its own standard of time, most places had different holidays.1 Instead of specific national […]


Ngramattic

Yesterday I posted a denunciation of Google’s new Ngram Viewer as an example of what Marx called “socially unnecessary labor time”–work that takes skill and craft and time but that nobody wants or needs. Lots of people I respect think more of Google’s Ngram Viewer than I do.  Friends who don’t follow the world of […]


The Segway of Digital Searching

It could be a failure of my imagination, but I’m having a very hard time seeing what would be useful about Google’s new Ngram Viewer. It’s being presented in the Times as some sort of breakthrough, and I suppose it is–it’s never been possible to do this before. But then it was never possible to […]