History Carnival LV: A Shopper’s Guide to Creative History Blogging
Welcome to the History Carnival and to Civil War Memory. This month’s submissions – as usual – reflect a wide range of interests. As I made my way through the submissions I couldn’t help but notice the number of entries that ask the reader to rethink assumptions about a certain aspect of the past or to reconsider how history is presented in various public settings such as museums and the classroom. Such a theme resonates with me given the goal of my own blog which focuses specifically on uncovering the assumptions that guide and shape our thinking about the American Civil War that often go unnoticed and unchallenged. Perhaps the blogging format provides just the right setting for such an approach as authors are free to take chances in testing new ideas on a canvas that can be continually updated and revised. The results are often entertaining, original, occasionally brilliant and with just a hint of the subversive. So, without further delay I present this month’s crop of posts.
Just down the hallway History Is Elementary reflects on the importance of storytelling in Oh, I Love to Tell the Story… Why are they so important?: “Teaching students to evaluate the actions of historical characters is just one step towards developing citizens that can analyze events as their life unfolds—events that effect taxes, waging war, and most importantly elections.”
Rob MacDougall analyzes Madness and Civilization III which is posted at Old is the New New. He argues that computer games are not effective tools for teaching history and then suggests how they could be. Along the way the reader learns that “Civilization’s game play erases its own historical content.”
For some reason I can’t get that last phrase out of my head.
The recent passing ofLady Bird Johnson 1912-2007 provided an opportunity over at Al Wiesel’sRebel Without a Cause – Live Fast, Die Young to examine the former first lady’s influence on her husband’s decision-making. According to Wiesel: “Walter Jenkins was one of Johnson’s closest aides and when he was arrested for a gay liaison in a YMCA bathroom on the eve of the 1964 election. Lyndon Johnson was afraid that it would have an impact on the campaign. Lady Bird was more concerned about doing the right thing.”
Oh how I yearn for those days when the biggest news coming out of the White House was a sex scandal.
Kristan Tetens examines in Agony at Sea Simon Schama’s claim that JMW Turner’s Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On ) is the greatest painting of the nineteenth century. The painting is housed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Finally, just in case youare operating under the assumption that modern technology will preserve the historical record in ways that will render our lives more transparent to future generations of historians consider Timothy Burke’sUbiquitous information and history which was posted at Cliopatria in response to Charles Stross. I leave you with some thoughts from Burke’s post which serves to remind us of just how difficult it is to do this thing we call history. Peter Novick summed it up when he suggested that it is like trying to “nail jelly to the wall.” According to Burke:
“It may be that 23rd Century historians of everyday life will be in a dramatically better situation when they study the 21st Century: they won’t have to guess about what we ate, about what our sex lives were like, about everything we did and thought. Or maybe not. Right now I know that many people watch “The Simpsons”. I can only guess about what they think about “The Simpsons” when they watch it, whether they get all the jokes that I get and in the ways in which I get them. Knowing what people do doesn’t relieve you of the extraordinary difficulties involved in knowing what it means that they do it. Even asking people directly, “What does that mean to you?” doesn’t relieve you of that burden, in part because meaning doesn’t have a final resolution. Consciousness is not part of the datasphere of the 21st Century, at least, not yet.”