In 2009, between studying for my Master’s and Ph.D., I was lucky enough to spend July at the National Maritime Museum as a research intern. This is a great programme if you are a postgraduate or just finishing your undergraduate studies, and want to try out some primary research or get to grips with the NMM’s fantastic collections. My project, supervised by Richard Dunn, looked at early modern navigational instruments, of which the Museum has quite a few. My aim was not to understand them in a scientific sense, but to consider them as cultural artefacts: what did they mean for the people who made and used them? This involved looking both at the instruments themselves and at manuscripts and books from the period, many of them held in the NMM’s Caird Library – although this was in the old Caird, before the Sammy Ofer wing was built (the new Caird is great, but I admit a soft spot for the old library, with its glass-fronted bookshelves. It was where I encountered manuscripts for the first time, too).
I rarely agree with David Willetts. Reading his new pamphlet on universities, Robbins Revisited: Bigger and Better Higher Education (a comparison between the 1963 Robbins report and current policy), I found that I agree on one principle, mostly discussed in chapter 3, that universities should be focusing as much energy on teaching as they do on research. That’s as far as I can go, though. His statement ‘Looking back we will wonder how the higher education system was ever allowed to become so lopsided away from teaching [towards research]‘ (p. 47) has been leapt upon on social media, perhaps unfairly, as a sign that he does not know why it has. In fact, he provides the answer himself: ‘Universities have focused primarily on research because that is where the funding and prestige came from’ (p. 36). He is just not doing enough to change this.
Roll up, roll up, for the 125th history carnival! Here we have a selection, a variety, a tasting of blogs on all matters historical from the past month to delight and divert all and everyone. So, without further fake circus patter (which I’m not very good at anyway), on to the blogs.
With the new academic year just begun or seriously looming, depending on where you are, it seems fitting to start with posts aimed at history students in general. H. E. History Hub is a new blog run by Sara Barker and Claire McCallum explaining university history to new students; their latest post is on ‘who’s who in a history department’. W. Caleb McDaniel gives us a range of questions to pose when reading historical books and discussing them in seminars. While both are aimed at undergraduate students, they are well worth reading if you teach, too (especially if you are new to it!). At postgraduate level, Coral Stoakes reflects on the ‘baby steps’ of starting a Ph.D., and facing the ‘big girl task’ of a book review, and Julie Somers provides guidance on medieval manuscripts in the USA, in case you’re thinking of research in that direction. More generally, Sharon Howard has put together a really helpful list of digital history blogs, while Katherine Pickering Antonova and Phil of the Reckless Historians offer some thoughts on just what being a historian involves.
I have been continuing my dabblings with PDFs as a format for documents and note-taking (the beginnings of these dabblings can be seen here and here), so here are some more reflections on this from a little further along the process.
As I described in the previous posts, my main use has been to turn photographs of manuscripts into PDFs, and then to annotate onto them rather than transcribe. This is working fairly well; although the process of creating the PDFs is a little time-consuming (because of processing the photographs so that the resulting files aren’t too huge), it is then very easy to annotate and afterwards to find things within the documents fairly quickly. The main problem is that these annotations are then internal to the PDFs. As I also explained before, I use Evernote to arrange my text notes, which is very handy for cross-searching lots quickly, especially when writing. As yet I have no way of doing this for multiple PDFs, but I am working on a separate index system, about which more below.
I am delighted to announce that on 1 September, historywomble will be hosting the 125th History Carnival.
The idea behind the carnivals is to showcase historical blogging from the previous month; the last edition was hosted by Early Modern Medicine. So I want you to send me your blog posts – any blog, any period, any area of history. If it’s historical and published during August, I want to know about it.
There is a nomination form, or you could comment on this post or send me an email. Get writing, all you historical bloggers. I’m counting on you.