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 for today. And they both have homes not only in history departments, but also institutions that train future generations of professionals, whether officers or MBAs. This tension also means that military history and business history are sometimes looked down on by the field of history more generally, even though bread-and-butter themes such as class, race, gender, citizenship, politics, and power more generally cannot be adequately understood without consideration of militaries and businesses.
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.
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 purpose it serves on the web. I blog to make sense of things or tell stories or both, but I don’t do so with the sensibilities of a diarist or archivist.
For the same reason, there are also a few thousand tweets missing from the early days of my twitter account—though I understand that the Library of Congress might have preserved that junk. No matter. In the past I’ve deleted teaching blogs, a Mac blog, and a tumblelog that outlived their usefulness for me. Whether or not they got cached somewhere doesn’t matter to me. I just didn’t feel like maintaining them or having them show up in current search results. But I won’t kill off a couple of my other blogs Clio and Me and Language for You, since they contain a few bits of useful information, and some of it even relates to what I’ll be doing here.1 They’re like the old notebooks that I want to keep around just in case, unlike the larger piles of stuff that went into the recycling bin.
I’ll probably also keep Commonplacing, a tumblelog in which I have been collecting random quotes.
So what will I blog about here? For starters, I would like to dust off the old dissertation, which I defended in 2006, and ponder what I might do with that research. Occasionally writing about that work should help me clarify my own thinking. As an added bonus, maybe this blog will also help me communicate with others who might be interested in similar issues. Time will tell.