A Student of History

April 29, 2007

Queen to Apologize to Va. Indians?

Filed under: The past that is still with us — John Maass @ 5:28 pm

The Queen is being urged to apologise for the slaughter of American Indians and the introduction of slavery when she visits Virginia this week as guest of honour to mark the 400th anniversary of the first English settlement in the New World at Jamestown.

She will be landing in the middle of a row over political correctness after officials in Virginia banned the use of the word “celebration” for the anniversary. It is being called a “commemoration” out of respect for the suffering of native Americans, who were attacked after the colonists arrived in 1607.

Mary Wade, a native American member of the Virginia Council on Indians, said: “You can’t celebrate an invasion. Whole tribes were annihilated.”

The rest of the article from the London Times is here.

April 28, 2007

In Search of Ireland’s Heroes

Filed under: Ireland,New books — John Maass @ 8:28 am

I am now reading In Search of Ireland’s Heroes, by Carmel McCaffrey, and have to recommend it to anyone interested in getting an overview of Irish history since the English invasion of that island.  It is not definitive nor is it authoratative–but that is actually why I like it!  This is the perfect book for the reader who just wants a readable basic narrative and who does not have a very strong background in Irish history. You also need not have travelled there to get a gist of the events as she tells it.

This is actually the second part of McCaffrey’s histry-she co-authored an earlier volume, In Search of Ancient Ireland, as a companion book to the PBS series of that name from about 5 years ago.

April 27, 2007

History by the Numbers

Filed under: The Academy — John Maass @ 4:09 pm

According to the AHA Perspectives, history prof’s salaries are lagging.  That is no surprise to those of us in the field, but here’s what they are:

Growth in history salaries at each rank lagged behind the average of all disciplines at each rank. The unweighted average starting salary for an instructor of history in 2006–07 was $39,048 compared to $38,578 last year, for an increase of only 1.2 percent (compared to 3.7 percent for instructors in all disciplines). The unweighted average starting salary for a beginning assistant professor of history was $47,145 compared to $45,528 last year, for an increase of 3.55 percent (compared to 3.6 percent in all disciplines). The starting salary for an assistant professor was $48,219 (an increase of 2.91 percent , versus 3.8 percent in all disciplines); for an associate professor, $58,206 (an increase of 2.99 percent , versus 3.9 percent in all disciplines); and for a full professor, $76,049 (an increase of 3.0 percent , versus 4 percent in all disciplines).

Could salaries be low because academic historians seem to be regarded as irrelevant today?  Have academic historians made themselves that way?  Historians, it must be recalled are not stuck having to go into academic pursuits, after all.  Just look on USAJobs’ website and search under “historian” to see what they can actually earn. 

On Historians Writing Well

Filed under: The Academy — John Maass @ 4:04 pm

At the AHA’s website, there is a worthwhile article by Laura J. Mitchell on the need for historians to write well.  That should go without saying, but unfortunately it needs saying!  Here’s a snip of the piece:

Just because writing is too rarely a topic of professional development does not mean the majority of historians want to write and read unwieldy books or stifling papers. We all aspire to write good books with clearly written prose that advances a coherent argument supported by well-documented, transparent use of evidence.

April 25, 2007

At long last….

Filed under: The Academy — John Maass @ 8:20 pm

There is light at the end of the tunnel, at long last. 

I am now in the process of fine-tuning eight of my nine dissertation chapters, making sense of them, reorganizing some, cutting a bit too.  I have one more chapter to write, but have marshaled the material I need for it and even have some stuff on paper already.  I hope to have a draft ready to turn in to my committee by June 15th, and defend it by July 16th if all goes well.  I do have an eight day trip to Ireland in May, but hopefully that will not be a problem.

April 24, 2007

Monocacy Battlefield-Good visit

Filed under: Historic Places,Wars — John Maass @ 7:04 am

While attending the recent Society for Military History Conference in Frederick, MD last weekend, I had a chance to spend a few hours at the NPS site at Monocacy nearby, the so-called “battle that saved Washington, in 1864.  In the summer of 1864, General Jubal Early led Confederate forces towards Washington, D.C. and threatened to capture the capital city. On July 9, Union troops under General Lew Wallace met Early’s forces here at Monocacy.  Although Wallace’s troops were defeated by several powerful rebel assaults, they slowed the enemy advance on DC enough to give the Feds a chance to organize a defense.

The site is very nice, and also quite convenient tot he interstate so even if one has but one or two hours, it is certainly possible to drive and/or walk it.  It is also a small scale battle by CW standards, actually more like a larger Rev War site.  The NPS either owns all the land (well, most of it) or has obtained lifetime easements of the killing ground, so one can easily see where the events took place.

I hiked some trails too, although recent rains made some of it a bit muddy.  Again, well worth it-and the new visitor center is almost done. 

Construction of the new Monocacy National Battlefield visitor center has reached 84% completion with construction estimated to finish in spring 2007. Interior building framing is complete and drywall installation is progressing; the exterior of the visitor center and the roof is complete. Mechanical and electrical systems are installed including sprinkler systems, storm water management, and HVAC. Opening of the new visitor center is currently scheduled for June 2007.

April 23, 2007

Mosby Marker Dedicated

Filed under: Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 7:30 pm

Mosby Heritage Sign 

The following is from the Mosby Heritage Area Association website:

On a cold January 10th (2007) Mosby historians and interested parties assembled at Loudoun Heights for the dedication of a Virginia State Highway Marker noting the actions of John S. Mosby and his Rangers at Loudoun Heights on January 10, 1864.  A member of the Historic Mosby Rangers from Washington state, representing the group that spearheaded the fundraising efforts to have the marker erected.

Don Hakenson, Mosby historian, gave a moving talk on the action that took place on that January 10th day in 1864.  Mosby and scout Frank Stringfellow had planned a joint attack on Major Henry Cole’s Union forces camped at Loudoun Heights.  A gun shot alerted Cole’s cavalry resulting in Mosby loosing the element of surprise and suffering the loss of six men—his greatest defeat. 

Mr. & Mrs. Jeffrey Edling, who initiated the effort to get the marker placed, were given the honor of unveiling the marker.  Jeff Smith, a Mosby re-enactor, then read the text to the marker for those in attendance.  The ceremony ended with Connie Boudreau giving the benediction.  Members of the Clinton Hatcher Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans were on hand as an honor guard.  Following the ceremony, everyone was invited by the Edling’s to their house, which served as Cole’s headquarters, for a reception.



Mosby’s biography is here, along with a photo.

[I wonder if the marker mentions if he owned slaves?]

Battle of Bosworth Field–where is it?

Filed under: Historic Preservation — John Maass @ 3:30 pm

From an article here:

A silver eagle unearthed by archaeologists could help settle a long-standing debate about one of the most important battles in English history.More than 500 years after the Battle of Bosworth Field, experts are divided on where the clash took place.

The decisive clash of the Wars of the Roses, in 1485, led to the death of Richard III and the crown passing to Henry Tudor.

While many believe the conflict was settled on Ambion Hill, near Sutton Cheney, others claim the fight could have happened up to eight miles away, in Warwickshire.A tiny heraldic trinket – an eagle with wings spread standing on a branch – could now be a key piece of evidence.

April 22, 2007

Remove Debris from 1759 Fort!!

Filed under: Historic Preservation — John Maass @ 8:04 pm

On Jan. 3, Pennsylvania state-funded construction crews entered Pittsburgh’s Point State Park and began burying a 250-year-old bastion to make way for concert and festival grounds.

The Fort Pitt Music Bastion, one of the only remnants of the French and Indian War’s Fort Pitt, built in 1759, is now covered with 10 feet of demolition debris and sand. This spring, while work continues on a $35 million construction project in downtown’s state park, a group of historians and citizens is determined to unearth the bastion.

“Without Fort Pitt, we would probably all be speaking French right now,” says Will Rouleau, co-founder of SaveFortPitt.org.

The odds are against Rouleau’s group, however.

More here….

Austen portrait fails to sell

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Maass @ 7:46 pm

A month ago I posted on Jane Austen’s portrait up for sale in the UK, here.

The portrait, as you can read here, did not sell.

Christie’s said no one offered the owner’s minimum price for the painting that had been expected to fetch between $400,000 and $800,000.

A spokeswoman for the auction house said the minimum level was kept secret.

The portrait by English society artist Ozias Humphry was put up for sale by Henry Rice, a distant relative of the writer of classics such as “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice” who died in 1817.


April 18, 2007

Fort of the Harlot

Filed under: Ireland — John Maass @ 11:51 am

An Irish village has cleared the latest hurdle in its campaign to change its names to the Fort of the Harlot.  The loose translation of its old Irish title means “the stronghold of immoral women”. Many residents in the village of Doon in County Limerick reportedly prefer the name of Dun Bleisce, translated as the Fort of the Harlot.  However, locals said the name referred to a strong woman and local women were noted for their beauty and culture. The first mention of the name Dun Bleisce was in 774.

The BBC piece is here.  Another news link is here.

An update on UK schools

Filed under: The Academy — John Maass @ 11:51 am

In a previous post, I mentioned that the U.K. schools were getting rid of the Holocaust as a matter for instruction to pupils, due in part to the sensitivities of certain groups.

As it turns out, this is not quite true, although if one reads the wording of the directive that gave rise to the story in the first place, you can see why.  Recently a spokesman for England’s Department for Education and Skills stated: “Teaching of the Holocaust is already compulsory in schools at Key Stage 3 [ages 11 to 14]. It will remain so in the new KS3 curriculum from September 2008.”  Thus, teaching the Holocaust is thus not banned, as many understood it to be.

Nevertheless, read (from the BBC) a brief snip of what the original guidelines say so that you can see why there was this misunderstanding:

The report that may have given rise to the alarm was commissioned by England’s Department for Education and Skills from the Historical Association, which promotes the study and teaching of history.

It said: “Teachers and schools avoid emotive and controversial history for a variety of reasons, some of which are well-intentioned.

“Staff may wish to avoid causing offence or appearing insensitive to individuals or groups in their classes.

“In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship.”

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