The Burden of Fact

American national leaders gain their legitimacy by competing in compliance with not merely the outward forms but the clear values of our Constitution—equal dignity, religious freedom and tolerance, open deliberation, and the rule of law. These values don’t bind Donald Trump; norms of decency do not apply; he shrugs off the very burden of fact itself.

Garrett Epps, “Donald Trump has broken the Constitution,” The Atlantic, November 9, 2016.

History Telling

In most of today’s university disciplines, professional training serves to distance an individual from the public, to refine them into an ‘expert’ whose speech and writing are marked by incomprehensible formulae and keywords. But history-telling came out of an age before the era of experts, and its form is inherently democratic.

Jo Guldi and David Armitage, The History Manifesto (2014; Cambridge UP, 2015), 56.

Rates of Change

Technology, institutions, mentalities and practices change at different rates. Technology, especially in the age of what has been called ‘the institutionalization of innovation’, changes rapidly. Society and its institutions change more slowly, a result of what has been called institutional ‘inertia’. Last to change are mentalities and practices, illustrating the presence of the past in the world of today.

— Peter Burke, A Social History of Knowledge II: From the Encyclopaedia to Wikipedia (Polity, 2012), Kindle ed., chap. 9, “Chronologies of Knowledge.”


Some years ago, I used a Tumblr blog as a kind of commonplace book. That fell by the wayside, but lately I’ve felt the need to have a place to save quotes again. Rather than use a separate venue, however, I’ll  just collect them here under the commonplacing tag category.

I don’t intend to take extensive notes this way, but rather to grab things that I think can stand on their own. That’s the plan for now anyway.