Archive for 2012

November 8th 2012
Alfred F. Young, 1925-2012

Posted under American history & class & Gender & women's history

Al Young

We learned yesterday that Al Young has died at the age of 87 in Durham, North CarolinaA leading scholar of the “New Left,” especially with respect to working class people and the history of the American Revolution, his influence on several generations of early American historians is indisputable.  Young saw the Revolution as one that emerged from the bottom up, although he was very clear that the Revolution benefited only a tiny minority of elite Americans in spite of the sacrifices and suffering of the masses.  You can read other tributes to him on H-OIEAHCnet by Mike McDonnell and Kenneth Lockridge, with others certain to follow, I am sure.

Young’s New Left view of the Revolution (as opposed to the consensus school dominated by Bernard Bailyn and Gordon Wood) triumphed among scholars trained from the 1970s through the 2000s.  (Wood published a book called The Radicalism of the American Revolution twenty years ago.  Young never wrote a book called The Consensus of the American Revolution!  His full name was Alfred Fabian Young, after all.)  Unlike proponents of the consensus school, Al was never offered a position at an elite, private institution, and spent the bulk of his career at Northern Illinois University.

I knew Al briefly after his retirement, Continue Reading »


November 6th 2012
You’re welcome, America

Posted under American history & fluff

As a native Ohioan and currently a voter in another swing state that went for Barack Obama, I’d just like to take this opportunity to say you’re welcome.



November 5th 2012
Bill Keller visits sweet, quiet Oxford

Posted under American history & class & Gender & GLBTQ & race & students

. . . and reports on what he calls the Republican Id.

I never experienced Oxford as Republican as Keller sees it.  In fact, it seemed like a little blue oasis in a sea of Butler County red, but maybe that was just me and my neighbors in the Mile Square.  And FWIW, I never met any Miami faculty like Rich Hart (what an ironic name for a glibertarian free marketeer!)  But maybe it has changed in the 11 years since I lived there.

(True confession:  Fratguy and I changed our party registration to Republican on the day of the Republican primary in 2000 so that we could vote for John McCain and therefore–we hoped–stop George W. Bush!  Sorry, America–we failed.  Also, another true fact:  Oxford is the only place I ever voted that used punchcard ballots, as in the ballots with the potential for “hanging chads.”)

This was the most interesting part of the article:  Continue Reading »


November 3rd 2012
GREat scores or eGREgious scores: who gives a crap? Hint: we do! (Sorta).

Posted under jobs & students

A history Master’s student from outside the U.S. has a question about the GREs as he readies his applications for Ph.D. programs.  Can you help him understand how GRE scores are used in your graduate program admissions, especially those of you who teach in History departments?  To the mailbag, friends!

Dear Historiann,

As a student looking to apply to Ph.D. programs next year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the GRE (which my Canadian M.A. program luckily doesn’t require). It seems to me even more absurd than the SAT, and I can’t help but think that admissions committees weight it very highly relative to grades, recommendations, writing sample, etc.. Am I correct in this assumption, or should I go on an anti-standardized testing rant?

With All Due Respect,

GRE-phobic Gordon from Guelph

Dear Gordon,

I know–taking a mass-produced, mass-administered test seems like the height of idiocy, but never underestimate the degree to which history departments in U.S. universities (and probably elsewhere) desperately want to outsource their major decisions to others.  Since against all reason and good judgment, you appear to yearn to follow in the footsteps the embittered and frequently underemployed commenters on this blog, I should warn you that taking the GRE is merely the first time that your fate will be (in a small way, to be sure) outsourced to someone outside of the admissions committees who are tasked with reading and evaluating your application. Continue Reading »


November 1st 2012
Dia de los Muertos/All Saints Day quiz

Posted under childhood & fluff

I meant to get this post up last night, but for some reason my blog was off-line for a spell.  (BTW, this is not my pumpkin-carving kit, which tends more toward the soiled yoga pants-and-crummy sweatshirt variety.)  I hope you all had a safe and happy Halloween.

Now that the candy has been counted, stashed, and secretly raided by those of you with children under the age of 8, here’s my question:  Continue Reading »


October 30th 2012
What was excellent advice in 2008 looks positively prescient now!

Posted under American history & class & jobs & unhappy endings

I always thought this was a particularly good one, and not just because I grew up at the intersection of I-75 and the Ohio Turnpike.  I know a lot of you on the East and Best Coasts probably like to make fun of us yokels from Ohio, but like it or not, friends–those yokels will be picking your next president for you!  (And this yokel, now living in another swing state, has already cast her vote by mail, helping to pick your president too.)

It’s interesting to note (based on this trip down memory lane) that President Obama’s insular tendencies–and even his isolationism from powerful people in the Democratic Party–were clearly evident more than four years ago.  I know people don’t like it when I say this, but the President’s isolation, stemming from his refusal to use a great deal of the “soft power” tools of the presidency, is a political problem.  (And doesn’t the debate debacle in Denver earlier this month look different, having re-read that post?) Continue Reading »


October 29th 2012
Hurricanes: another reason to appreciate the high plains desert, until the drought gets too bad.

Posted under American history & unhappy endings

Down, Sandy! Down girl!

I was very sorry to hear about Hurricane Sandy as I know that many of you regular readers and commenters live in the BosWash corridor and so stand to be flooded out, snowed in, and/or suffer damage to your homes (or all of the above!  Fun.)  I’ve been following the news today, and it looks to be one of those agonizingly slow-moving but fierce storms.  Here’s hoping that property is all that’s lost in this storm.

It’s really too bad neither of the major parties was courageous enough to make climate change an issue in the campaign this year.  (Scratch that–climate change was indeed a big issue in the Republican primary–the issue being who could deny the fact of anthropogenic climate change the fastest and promise more drill, baby, drilling!)  Although I had low expectations of President Obama, even I have managed to be disappointed by his inability or unwillingness to exercise leadership on so  many issues that are important to the Democratic base, climate change being just one of them.  I get it that the do-nothing congress has pretty much tied itself to the tracks of history in order to halt any possible Obama achievement for the past two years, but guess what?  That’s why they call it leadership.  You can’t let your political opposition dictate the terms of your agenda, let alone the boundaries of what you’re permitted to talk about.

Here’s hoping that everyone is safe and dry, even if you have to read this blog on your smartphone because you’ve lost your electricity!


October 27th 2012
A felony arrest by the “language police!”

Posted under American history & bad language & childhood & happy endings & wankers

Relicts of childhoods past.

Hey, kids–good news!  Self-appointed language liberator Ann Coulter has proclaimed “retard” to be OK again, and not at all an insult to disabled people, because she says so.  So get your “retard” on again, friends!

What?  You’re not interested in dusting that one off from elementary school in the 1970s and 1980s?  I bet you don’t even laugh at dead baby or fart jokes, either.  I guess the language police got to you, too. Continue Reading »


October 23rd 2012
So exactly why did you resign, again?

Posted under jobs & weirdness

Did anyone else read this provocative nothingburger of an essay?  Michael Bérubé on “Why I Resigned the Paterno Chair:”

I read the Freeh report the morning it was released and proceeded to ignore every news-media outlet’s request to comment. A producer for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered called my English-department office, my office at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, my cellphone, and my home phone. For good measure, she e-mailed and tweeted me. That afternoon, I saw a cloud formation that pretty clearly seemed to be a smoke signal—”Professor Bérubé, this is NPR. Please call us RIGHT THIS SECOND.” Radio, TV, newsmagazines, and newspapers called and wrote. But I had nothing to say that day, and I have had nothing to say since. Until now.

If only he had clung to his original instincts!  Continue Reading »


October 22nd 2012
Today’s example of brainless, fact-free so-called “Founding Fathers” worship

Posted under American history & European history & jobs & race & wankers

And it would have worked too, if it weren’t for you meddling Anti-Federalists!

Today’s example comes from Katherine Kersten, a fellow at something called the Center for the American Experiment in Crappy History.  It’s a twist on the “Obama is not an American” theme so popular with anti-Obamaniacs these days.  Big news, kids:  President Barack Obama’s agenda is not rooted in Kenyan anti-colonialism.  Instead, it’s rooted in Kaiserreich Germany!  Behold:

Progressivism views the roles of citizen and state very differently than our founding fathers did. The founders anchored the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in three principles. They believed that human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inherent in nature and human dignity, and preexist the state. They believed that government should be limited, and that its primary purpose is to protect these rights. Finally, they crafted our Constitution to disperse power and curb its abuse through mechanisms such as checks and balances, and federalism.

As the 20th century opened, progressives like Woodrow Wilson — a former president of Princeton University — dismissed the Declaration and Constitution as outmoded. They insisted that America’s archaic political system was unsuited to solving the problems of a new industrial age. Ironically, however, they drew their own vision for perfecting democracy from a very undemocratic place: the imperial Germany of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

Dun-dun-dunnnnnnnnn!  Now, forget about some American intellectuals’ fascination with German education back in the 1870s for just a moment, a phenomenon to which Obama is only very, very distantly attached, to say the least.  Did you see what she did with the so-called “Founding Fathers?”  Continue Reading »


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