"Many historians, I fear, still think of ghosts as the province of a small number of specialist ‘historians of the ghostly’, such as Peter Marshall, Sasha Handley and Shane McCorristine. They are prepared to acknowledge that belief in ghosts, like other supernatural beliefs, can be illuminating of the culture of a particular time and place." Yet "Every half decent historian has had this experience: for a moment, the past seems more real than the present, and the absence of the dead an absurdity." Why Historians Need Ghosts, an article by Dr. Francis Young. [more inside]
"An econ buff in the year 2500 might know all about the Great Depression that happened in the early 20th century and the major recession that happened about 80 years later, but that same person might mistake the two world wars for happening in the 1800s or the 2200s.... Likewise, I might know that Copernicus began writing his seminal work... in the early 1510s, but by learning that right around that same time in Italy, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I get a better picture of the times. [It]allows me to see the 1510s horizontally, like cutting out a complete segment of the vine tangle and examining it all together."
The Best of Scribblers - an appreciation of Edward Gibbon and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
The UK's National Archives has today released the formerly secret files detailing MI5's monitoring of the British Marxist historians Eric Hobsbawm and Christopher Hill [PDF downloads available]. The Guardian reports. An official historian explains. [more inside]
I call on historians to dedicate their precious few hours of spare time to improving Wikipedia; as an incentive, I call on administrators to integrate Wikipedia contributions into the publication requirements for tenure.
The uncommonly well-moderated and researched Ask Historians subreddit answers the question: What common medieval fantasy tropes have little-to-no basis in real medieval European history?
Do you like history? Do you like drunk people? If you answered yes to these two questions, you may like Drunk History, where you get to see what happens when a drunk historian explains what happened. The original web series was previously discussed twice on metafilter. Now there's more: [more inside]
Who needs machine readable dates? As far as I can see there are two target audiences for this operation. The first is obviously social applications that have to work with dates, and where it can be useful to compare dates of two different events. An app must be able to see if two events fall on the same day and warn you if they do. However, as a target audience social applications are immediately followed by historians (or historical, chronological applications). After all, historians are (dare I say it?) historically the most prolific users of dates, until they were upstaged by social applications. [more inside]
In school, most grades have a favorite teacher. For Rockport-Fulton Middle School's seventh grade, it's Bobby Jackson. He teaches Texas History. (Via) [more inside]
The Boston Globe reports that historian Howard Zinn has died of a heart attack. The pioneering radical historian is best known for A People's History of the United States.
"Mr. Everyman is stronger than we are, and sooner or later we must adapt our knowledge to his necessities."
"Everyman His Own Historian" is the annual address Carl Becker, President of the American Historical Association, delivered on December 29, 1931. It's probably the best thing I've ever read about history, and I thought I'd share it. It's long, but full of lively examples; I'll never forget the image of twenty tons of coal sliding dustily through Mr. Everyman's cellar window. (Via Slawkenbergius's Tales, the brilliant blog of MeFi's own nasreddin.)
To Catch A Thief. How a Civil War buff's chance discovery led to a sting, a raid and a victory against traffickers in stolen historical documents. Related article: Pay Dirt in Montana. And photo gallery.
David Halbertstam dead in tragic car accident. Experienced, eloquent, and always observant (his dim view of Patrick Ewing being a notable exception), David Halberstam was a journalistic jack-of-all-trades who was probably best known for his stinging indictment of Vietnam warrior Robert McNamara, JFK and LBJ's secretary of defense, in the classic The Best and the Brightest. A superior war correspondent before the era of CNN-televised revolutions , Halberstam was also an excellent historian and sports writer. Halberstam's dense but illuminating The Fifties is an informative and tightly written study on the Eisenhower era. And The Children offers a compelling look at eight young leaders of the Civil Rights Revolution. Moreover, Halberstam's many writings on basketball (The Breaks of the Game, Playing for Keeps) and baseball (Summer of '49, October 1964) rank among the upper echelon of sports books.
Historian H.W. Brands argues in this month's Atlantic that we over-venerate our Founding Fathers. John Adams and co., he surmises, were no wiser or more virtuous than our current crop of politicians, but their numerous flaws have been rendered invisible through the rosy glasses of time. What today's politicians could learn from their predecessors, he says, is bravado, the courage to take risks. Why not call a Constitutional Convention and rewrite the rules every so often?, he asks.
Chinese-art.com is a web-based portal site designed to provide.. [more]