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
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
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
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.
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.