Of course, I have some questions to ask, too, and I’ll do so over the next several weeks.
Here’s today’s poll:
I said “books,” but my fuller answer would involve a lot of give and take with various professional and amateur historians over the years. I even learned in a sense from those who fancied themselves as experts in some subject but who were anything but, simply because the arguments they made that I suspected to be unsound inspired me to learn as much as I could on the subject.
One category that should have been presented is a symposium or conference. If that was the case I would split my vote 50/50 between conference and my own reading.
I was trying to conform to what I saw presented as options by someone else. You make a good point. Moreover, who do you most want to hear speak at conferences? I ask knowing that’s a problematic question.
I enjoy listening to historians that have a good point to make on their topic and leave enough time for Q&A and treat the Q&A session as importantly as their presentation. Some lecturers answer a question that is never asked which is a sign that they aren’t listening. I think a good Q&A leaves the audience and lecturer with a better understanding of the topic and possibly better ways to communicate their thoughts or ideas.
I have also experienced lecturers or guides that will actually make things up, thinking no one will ever find out. Honesty is the best policy, “I don’t really know but I would venture to guess ..” goes along way with credibility.
Let me ask you a question: do you really care about the historian’s credentials/profession when you attend a conference? What does that tell you, if anything? Or is it just the work that counts?
I am interested in their credentials and profession but I view those the same way I view blurbs on the back cover of book. It’s a good base to start from.
The work counts most. Why is this better than anyone else’s presentation? Is this new or does it shed more light on a subject that most people are familiar with? Is there a new source of information? Does this confirm of deny long held beliefs on the subject? Should this be a new avenue of inquiry?
I would say 10% bona fides and 90% quality of work.
I always read about an event to gain overall knowledge. But then I walk the ground to get an appreciation of the terrain, preferably at the same time of idea. That is probably the old Infantry Officer in me so I get a full appreciation of what happened. Then I reread what I read first to “complete’ my education. This is especially true after walking many western battlefields. Some of those places make The Wilderness look like a mall parking lot!
Now I get to vote to show my intellectual superiority. Smack me down please.
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