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 answer about the meaning of Groener’s middle-class cultural orientations for our understanding of the Imperial German officer corps. Continue reading

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 ago, so I pulled one of those out to review.

If you want to learn or practice yourself, I scanned one of these schoolbooks a couple years ago, and someone put a copy on the Internet Archive: A. F. Lorenzen, Deutsche Fibel (Columbus, OH: Lutherische Verlagshandlung, 1901).

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.

I’m doing most of my data entry and sorting on my iMac with Bookends from Sonny Software, and I’m reading and reviewing on my iPad though the new Bookends on Tap, which syncs with the Mac nicely. And I’ve got the Mac database on Dropbox, in case I need to add or reference something from the office.

One valuable benefit of otherwise rather poorly paid adjunct teaching is the access I get to periodical literature online through the university library that is not available through my institute. But I’m finding that I’ll still need to visit Lauinger Library at Georgetown for some things, too. Fortunately, that’s only a thirty-minute walk from here, half of that through the woods, which can do this sedentary body good.

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 in a more systematic way, so that I can’t use earning money as an excuse for missing new scholarship on certain topics. Still, we are talking about dead people who aren’t going anywhere, right? And the pace of historical research is slow anyway. Besides, how often are the results of historical research advanced in real time? It’s not like cable news channels and NPR are standing in line to review our output. Even blogging, tweeting, facebooking scholars have their own research projects to do, so that they can’t pay attention to every new development of their colleagues at the moment it occurs. Continue reading

Dissertation on Internet Archive

Uploading one’s dissertation to the Internet Archive is certainly not for everybody, because publishers will not want to publish something that one can get elsewhere for free. Nonetheless, I took this big step after initially just making it available on GoogleDocs and Dropbox, where I had the freedom to delete the file. After careful consideration, I have concluded that any articles or book I write will be substantially new pieces of scholarship, not just recycled, even when I draw heavily on my empirical findings and analysis. Continue reading

Terence Zuber’s Image of War and the Schlieffen Plan Debate

When writing my dissertation, I was forced to confront Terence Zuber’s claims that Wilhelm Groener and others had “invented” the Schlieffen Plan, and I wrote a section on the issue. The debate has continued since that time, with new evidence and articles emerging, but I have not seen any significant reason to alter my basic conclusions. Thus, I feel the section I wrote still has value for anyone trying to understand this debate. I mention that here and make the dissertation freely available because some of the most important scholarship is locked behind the pay walls of professional history journals. That is fine for those of us with access to well-stocked university libraries, but not everyone is so fortunate. Zuber himself has been canny about this limitation of modern scholarship, which so often engages other scholars but does not reach out to the general public. He has rehearsed his arguments in an affordable book for the mass market called The Real German War Plan (The History Press, 2011). While this will not earn him points in academia, it serves the useful function of engaging the public, which more of us should do. Continue reading

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 so on. First, however, I have to consider the extent to which I should make general arguments based on Groener versus offer work that focuses more narrowly on him, albeit to foster further work for broader conclusions.