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Year: 2012

Teaching Notes: Synthesis and Process

The main assignment for my graduate survey of modern Europe this summer was to write an essay that incorporated all of the assigned books and most of the assigned articles. I conceived of this assignment because of a similar one that I had had to do as a graduate student that I found especially productive, if difficult. (See “Learning to Synthesize History” on my old blog.) The essays my students wrote fulfilled or exceeded my expectations in some cases, but there were others that did not go as well as… Read more Teaching Notes: Synthesis and Process

Reflections after Class

One of those questions came up in class tonight with a group of MA students discussing Peter Fritzsche’s Life and Death in the Third Reich (Cambridge, MA, 2008), a question where I grow perhaps too animated, maybe conveying impatience, even arrogance, or, if I’m lucky, simply passion. What was the difference between communism under Stalin and nazism under Hitler? The differences are stark, but there’s that pesky word “socialism” and the collectivist rhetoric that is so easily conflated or confused with “collectivization,” never mind the existence of economic plans, mass… Read more Reflections after Class

Requiring Students to Use Chicago Style (or Turabian or Whatever)

While talking in class tonight about forthcoming papers, I heard from several students that many of their professors haven’t cared which system they used, as long as it was clear and they could retrace the student’s steps if necessary. That’s also long been my implicit attitude, even though I ask students to follow Chicago or Turabian and I correct their papers accordingly. Lately, however, I have come to think that teaching a specific style is actually important, even if I have done little more than point students in the right… Read more Requiring Students to Use Chicago Style (or Turabian or Whatever)

Military History Conference

I went to the annual meeting of the Society of Military History this year, because it was in the DC area, if way out in Crystal City. It was good to see and talk with people, especially a particular outside reader of my dissertation, who I was glad to run into. The book display was also interesting, because I discovered titles that the same publishers had not shown at the AHA meeting in January. Less interesting were the panels, which are actually the main event of conferences. The problem was… Read more Military History Conference

Who Should Groener’s Schlieffen Plan Matter To?

As I try to write an article about Groener’s understanding of war, which led him to write about Schlieffen’s supposed “recipe for victory,”, I have to keep asking myself, so what? I don’t mean this is in a negative way. I haven’t tired of this topic. But I’m not always sure why it should matter to other people. If I look at the Schlieffen Plan debate carried out mainly in the pages of War in History, it is clear that Groener’s perspective has something to offer that audience, because the… Read more Who Should Groener’s Schlieffen Plan Matter To?

Separating Writing from Formatting

As I began writing a manuscript that I plan to submit to a specific journal, I thought it would make sense to follow that journal’s style sheet, which is rather different from what I am used to. I noticed, however, that I was constantly looking things up, from the very first sentence. How do I cite that source with this particular system? How do I spell that word in British English? How do I handle quotation marks for this particular situation? It was hard to get any thinking and writing… Read more Separating Writing from Formatting

Refuting Straw Men and Explaining What Happened

In a recent German History forum, Paul Lerner offers an interesting aside: “I used the medical Sonderweg as more or less a straw man in my 2003 book on German psychiatry, but I found that even as I refuted it, the need to explain the unique path of German medicine kept arising.”1 These words speak to me, because I used Groener’s biography to refute the rather untenable interpretation of a “feudalized” bourgeoisie in the Kaiserreich, even in the officer corps, but taking down that straw man hasn’t offered a satisfying… Read more Refuting Straw Men and Explaining What Happened

German Handwriting from 98 Years Ago

This evening I pulled out old handwritten sources from 1914 to reexamine some quotes, because I wanted to use them in a different way than I did in my dissertation. To my initial consternation, I found them hard to read. (That’s what I get for letting so much time pass without reading that old handwriting.) Fortunately, there are so-called Deutsche Fibel around that children used to learn this handwriting back in the day. I’ve got a couple of these books that I used to teach myself well over a decade… Read more German Handwriting from 98 Years Ago

Working through More Journals

I’ve been working through more journals, putting interesting articles and reviews in my bibliography database and reading the things. It might be faster just to search databases for what I’m interested in, which I also have to do, of course, but browsing many issues of a journal offers a helpful overview of what’s going on in the scholarship more broadly. I still have to pick and choose from the huge mass of offerings, but at least this way I see things that I likely never would have looked for otherwise.… Read more Working through More Journals

Catch-Up Reading and Article Idea

Am I the only one who can get years behind on relevant readings? Silly me let teaching and editing get in the way of basic readings. But maybe I’m not the only one who gets behind. As much as I appreciate discussions about how digital scholarship could speed up the dissemination of research results, sometimes I’m quite glad these results come out slowly through journals, and that these journals are available online through the library for me to look at as time permits. I’m trying to get caught back up… Read more Catch-Up Reading and Article Idea

Still Reading the Dissertation

I am continuing to reread and ponder the dissertation. After getting over its many weaknesses, I see there is lots of good stuff in it, even if it is clearly in no way close to a book (following William Germano). There’s also no easy way to extract articles from it. These will have to be conceived and written from scratch, although the dissertation contains plenty of useful building blocks for essays on Groener and the Schlieffen Plan debate, military culture and the General Staff, images of officering and professionalism, and… Read more Still Reading the Dissertation

Military History and Business History

My research deals with war and society, while my editorial work addresses mainly consumption history. One might think these are two different worlds, but I’m coming to doubt the validity of such assumptions. Indeed, the subfields of military and business history have a lot of similarities. Most obviously, they are both interested in organizations, knowledge, experts, and elites—among other things. They are also both informed by a tension between the historian’s ethos to understand the past for its own sake and the practitioner’s desire to learn lessons from that past… Read more Military History and Business History

From Dissertation to . . . What?

I have just finished reading William Germano, From Dissertation to Book (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), which I can recommend to any scholar, not just those writing their first books. In my case, it offers food for thought about editing and writing in general. More importantly, it has helped encourage me to take up my research again, even if that probably won’t lead to a book. That has meant picking up the old dissertation—”Wilhelm Groener, Officering, and the Schlieffen Plan” (Georgetown University, 2006)—and rereading it with an eye to… Read more From Dissertation to . . . What?

Another Fresh Start

For a historian, I seem to have a rather cavalier attitude towards preserving my own past on the web. This site was once a personal blog in which I politicized, philosophized, and mused about the economic crisis that began hurting people some five years ago; about the presidential race that led to a wonderful, if cold inauguration day here in Washington, DC in 2008; and, less frequently, about aspects out of my everyday life, past and present. I’ve saved that stuff for my own records, but I don’t know what… Read more Another Fresh Start