Academic Historians, Civil War History, and Blogging

One of the characteristics of blogging that I view with ambivalence is the practice of blogging about blogging. I know that some bloggers like to discuss this issue every once in a while, and some have offered powerful cases for the importance of social media as a way for historians to communicate. I’m not so sure I want to join that chorus, although I agree that historians ignore social media and the internet at their peril given how people interested in history go about gathering information and opinions.

I admit that I feel a bit ill at ease about being on a panel on blogging at next month’s Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College …. not because of the company (Kevin Levin and Keith Harris) but because it’s not clear what I have to say. I try not to tell other historians what they should and should not be doing, and in the case of blogging, I’ve already heard complaints about this session from non-academic bloggers who feel excluded. I’m surprised I haven’t heard anyone complain that it’s Charlottesville-centric (or that Gettysburg College and the University of Virginia share the same school colors). My purposes in blogging are mine, and others may have different ones. However, the impact of blogging (on bloggers as well as on the audience and the discussion) is interesting, and I must confess that after years of engaging with carious forms of social media, blogging is my preferred venue of communication (although I remain fond of the well-moderated discussion group).

Today I’d like to look at a subset of the category of historians I call academic historians (as opposed to professional historians … there are people who practice the discipline of history as their profession [or as one of their professions]). Academic historians are employed by educational institutions to teach history. Some will define that level as applying simply to the college and university level, but I’m not prone to exclude folks.

There are blogs run by academic historians in several fields. However, I’m not aware of impassioned debate about blogging in those fields. Maybe someone can enlighten me. I am very aware of the impassioned debates about blogging in the area of Civil War studies. That debate takes several forms, and those forms tend to distort the debate. For example, not all Civil War bloggers are amateurs/buffs/non-professionals/non-academics. This blog suggests as much. So it’s wrong to present a debate as “us” (academics) versus “them” (outsiders). Nor would I speak of bloggers as a collective unified group. Rather, I like to name names, lest in characterizing the behavior of certain people, I tar other folks with the same labels.

It is clear to me that academic historians in the Civil War period are divided about the principles and practice of blogging. Indeed, I’d argue that academic historians who blog in the Civil War period often face criticism from their peers who feel uncomfortable about blogging or the exchanges that occur on blogs. I know I have. I’ve been chastised for failing to defend friends who are the subject of other bloggers’ ire, for example, as if I should rise to the defense of the guild as a whole. However, I note that some of my academic peers sometimes make themselves scarce when it comes to academics attacking fellow academics … and we’re not just talking about in print. I know of one well-known professional (non-academic) historian who was so wounded by what he read here that he’s adamant about vetoing my presence on conference programs (perhaps because he’s shying away from a face-to-face confrontation) … unfortunately for him, he doesn’t always control who’s on a program, as he has doubtless discovered to his dismay in consulting his obligations for June 2012. I’m well aware of other forms of petty behavior on the part of professional and academic historians toward their peers, so it strikes me as amusing when I hear the anguished cries of pain that someone’s been targeted by a blogger.

Note: I would not retract a word I said from the post that wounded that sensitive soul. If anything, I was too nice. You would think that someone who’s been in the give-and-take of the political world in New York would grow a thicker skin and own up to his mistakes.

That observation in turn brings me to something else I find amusing … although we’ve heard several complaints about blogging from academic historians, I can assure you that they constitute a rather healthy proportion of the lurking audience, and they don’t shy away from contacting other folks who are the subject of critical blog entries. That impression was confirmed recently at a professional meeting, where someone brought up the subject of blogging to me and thanked me for defending them. It turned out that the only reason the academic in question knew about the original blog post (which appeared on another blog) was that a well-known Civil War academic historian who does not blog contacted him about it. In short, trust me: just as a book reviewer knows that the one person who will read that review is the author of the book, so too should you know that academic historians, one way or another, will become aware of most if not all of what is said about their work in cyberspace, whether it’s good or bad, informed or uninformed, on the mark or a stray shot, from people who post under their names or from folks who disguise themselves, and so on.

I’m sure that in speaking bluntly as I have that I’m bruising some folks’ egos right now (and that they’ll be telling each other about it on e-mail). And I can assure you that I might lose some more opportunities to speak, write, or make some money because of someone’s hurt feelings. This says far more about them than it does about me, because at least I’m not whispering something behind their back or sharpening something to stick in said back. If you can’t stand the heat, turn off your monitor.

17 thoughts on “Academic Historians, Civil War History, and Blogging

  1. Mark R. Cheathem May 24, 2012 / 12:51 pm

    I wonder if the angst within the Civil War blogging community is because the content touches on highly politicized and emotionally charged issues in ways that other historical content that is blogged about does not.

    • Brooks D. Simpson May 24, 2012 / 1:05 pm

      That may be part of it, but I also think this notion of academic/professional/neither of the above plays a role. It’s a different atmosphere, and many things contribute to it.

  2. John Foskett May 24, 2012 / 2:06 pm

    Well said, as usual. Keep on blogging. For some reason not readily apparent to me, some of the folks who look down their noses at the “blogosphere” seem to ignore the fact that publishers churn out significant amounts of landfill material on an annual basis.

  3. wgdavis May 24, 2012 / 2:43 pm

    When non-academic bloggers post, it certainly does not carry the same weight as that of an Academic Historian with the Academic historian community. As one of them you are challenging them on turf that is not theirs. I suspect that is a large part of the issue as they simply do not know how to respond to your posts. That, however, smacks of academic elitism.

    On the other side of the coin is the fact that those of us who are not academics get to sharpen our skills under your hand [without the tuition], and that certainly widens your influence, another fact that may be upsetting them. You also engage in give and take on here and that is something they are, perhaps, not prepared to do, especially without compensation.

    Perhaps that makes them feel undermined. I look at it in several ways, however, and one of those is the role of an attorney doing pro bono work, except you do it far more often than any attorney I ever heard of!

  4. Jerry Desko May 24, 2012 / 5:53 pm

    Blogging is the most recent revision of the First Amendment. Professors, historians and regular folks are now all equal in expressing their opinion. I think this would ruffle some academic feathers.

    This brings on a new question. Who is more qualified to express a historical opinion? A PHD, a professional historian (What ever that is.) or a lay person?

    I think what has happened is as was in the Civil War (more correctly the War of The Rebellion), the populous is actually quite literate. The college professor has now lost his control over the minds of the uneducated and inferior masses. People of ordinary intelligence and with genuine life experience can now look at writings of the past and come to their own conclusions.

    Welcome to the Twenty-first Century!!

    And secondly, Syracuse University, Gettysburg College and the University of Virginia share the same school colors.

    I wonder if McClellan was aware of this fact when he decided to camp out in Sharpsburg for an inordinate amount of time. As Donald Trump would say, you’re fired! Did you know The Donald is a Lincoln scholar?

    I hope you all have a meaningful and fulfilling Memorial Day Weekend.

  5. Mark May 24, 2012 / 5:59 pm

    >> Today I’d like to look at a subset of the category of historians I call academic historians (as opposed to professional historians … there are people who practice the discipline of history as their profession [or as one of their professions]). Academic historians are employed by educational institutions to teach history. Some will define that level as applying simply to the college and university level, but I’m not prone to exclude folks.

    Brooks, I like the way you are making distinctions, but let me make sure I understand it. Some professional historians don’t teach in a classroom, such as at a museum or military historians who don’t do classroom teaching. So then all academic historians are professionals, but not all professional historians are academics. Do I have that right?

      • Mark May 24, 2012 / 9:17 pm

        Ok, thanks. Like I said, I love the distinctions you’re making about the terms. It helps me a lot because some terms like “professional” are used so ambiguously that it is very confusing. In my opinion, the term “professional” is now often used to mean “really good” or “excellent” unfortunately, whereas “amateur” means poorly done. On that view, we’re all professionals now, or at least hope so. But if we’re all professionals then no one is, and so the then the term is pretty meaningless.

        On the blogging issue, I wonder if people who don’t approve of blogging tend to think of teaching as something more closely associated with prestige than knowledge. I think of teaching as disseminating knowledge that has been acquired. Both are necessary, but knowledge is logically prior to communication. And just as there is a distinction between academics and professionals, there are avid learners who acquire knowledge who don’t teach formally, and those who teach formally who have a greater vested interest in the competitive prestige of their academic credentials than a zeal to know. I think the disputes about blogging amount to disputes about authority.

        If the topic of the seminar at Gettysburg is blogging, then it sounds like education is the real thing they are driving at. I wouldn’t see a problem with inviting only academics, unless there were some non-academics known to have major contributions on learning or teaching. On the other hand, if it were a technical issue, say what happened at Chancellorsville or some such, then it would make sense to include anyone who could contribute to the debate no matter whether they were an academic or not.

        My goal is not to be “educated,” but to know things about what I deem important. So I think we need to be ruthless about the end goal –acquiring knowledge about important things. All the rest are details. If blogging helps a professer do what he thinks is important (whether disseminating or acquiring) than he should, and if not not. I have found people tend to be highly skeptical of the value of discussion and debate. I think that is unfortunate, because I’ve found it to be highly valuable. Our forefathers would be saddened to see such skepticism. It used to be that education was disputational by nature. Maybe blogging is a return to an earlier way.

  6. Patrick Young May 24, 2012 / 8:54 pm

    I appreciate your thoughtful posts and believe that historians encountering the public’s desire to know about their country’s past is an important function in a democracy. Twenty years ago it might have been done through an op-Ed, today it can be done in a blog.

  7. Matt Gallman May 28, 2012 / 5:34 pm

    Hi Brooks

    About 11 months ago we had some interesting chats about the BCM and blogs.

    I saw this post of yours and thought that it might be interesting to attempt another lively discussion. Your post offers many interesting observations although no obvious discussion topic per se. Here are a few thoughts/questions to stir the pot:

    (1) I personally agree with the piece that Gary Gallagher wrote awhile ago: there is lots of good stuff on blogs and some stuff that ain’t so good. Isn’t that pretty much universally accepted by anyone who cares? [n.b. I didn’t think that all bloggers really got what he was saying. So it goes.]

    (2) You note that academic historians ignore social media and blogs at their peril. I take you to mean that historians who wish to speak to the broader public (and not all historians see that as their mission) and to speak to their students (which surely is their mission), it is wise to know what the heck folks are reading on the internet and in blogs. {This is, I think, distinct from the position Kevin L occasionally takes, which seems to be that folks who aren’t reading blogs are somehow missing out on the best stuff. That, I think, is probably bunk.} I think that you are right that if we are interested in what people know or think they know, we (academics) should pay attention to what folks are reading. This leads to:

    (3) The one place where I have seen just the tiniest bit of push back from academic historians (including GG) at the Civil War blogs has been in the emphasis on Black Confederates. I think GG’s point was that folks who read CiviL War blogs would conclude that this is a “real” issue, whereas it really isn’t a real issue to real historians (of any stripe). This issue is what led me to venture to Kevin’s blog about a year ago. He kept making FB posts about “black confederates” (no “myth”) and I finally went to his blog and suggested that perhaps this constant emphasis on the topic was giving it too much credibility. Interesting discourse ensued. It seems to me that my comments back then, and Gary G’s more recently, are quite in keeping with your advice to academic historians that they don’t ignore blogs. The bloggers responded, and were not entirely in agreement, but that is fine. It seems to me that the goal of a constructive discourse was met. And it also seems to me that there are far fewer posts about Black Confederate soldiers on certain blogs today than there were a year ago, and that the use of the added word “myth” is much more prevalent. That would suggest a useful interaction b.w bloggers and non-bloggers, don’t you think?

    (4) I am curious about what I understand to be your larger point that there is a fairly substantial “impassioned debate” among Civil War historians about blogging, where some “academic historians’ are actively hostile to the whole thing, while others are not. You are far better clued in than I am when it comes to these matters, but where is that impassioned debate going on? I think that folks have opinions, but I don’t actually see all that much debate, I’ve been to two CW conferences in the last 6 weeks, and blogs never came up in the sessions or in the dozens of hours of informal conversations. It seems to me that the Gallagher editorial reflects a consensus: there is some good stuff; there is some bad stuff; the topics that interest the CW blogs are not a perfect reflection of the range of topics out there. Are folks really engaged in “impassioned debate”? That might be interesting to read.

    (5) You and Kevin like to note that academic historians read your blogs, even if they don’t always post on them. I take it that you use this as evidence of the importance of blogs. My personal view? Blogs are often interesting, occasionally valuable for one’s own work. sometimes entertaining for purely fun reasons. I personally check in on your blog about every two weeks or so. Why? Well, mostly because you are Brooks Simpson and you know stuff. [to be blunt] You keep me informed on when the Civil War is in the news. You offer the occasional interesting discussion of military matters. You just posted a great poem by Whitman Occasionally I just enjoy reading the threads where folks are pissed off at you and you mock them. I am not ashamed to admit that I find it entertaining to watch you and Connie Chastain go at it (with words). But before coming to your blog I had never heard of Connie Chastain. I still don’t know who she is, and I can’t imagine that I should care. She is, to me, just a character in a reality show called “Crossroads.” That is entertaining and harmless. I read Kevin’s blog much less frequently because I think he understands his mission differently and it is not one that interests me as much.

    (6) Personally, I see blogs as no more or less than a place where folks can post things without any sort of referee intermediary, and where the owner of the blog has supreme control. That can be both positive and negative. It means that good stuff gets out quickly, and stupid stuff gets out as well. It also means that the person who owns the blog can insult folks who post with impunity and they are the final judge of their own behavior. And sometimes that behavior is not good. A year ago I critiqued Kevin because he posted a link to a blog that had insulted a friend of mine (and yours?). Kevin responded with his standard “who me?” The fact is that that original blog, by this fellow Rotov, was just horrible, despicable garbage. From a guy who has no platform beyond the fact that other bloggers like to praise him. Brooks, you didn’t praise him then, but you do tip your hat to him now and then. That is your choice, but you are a celebrated historian of infinitely greater stature than this guy and you are tipping your hat to someone who deserves no respect given his repeated lies. Well, precisely a year ago I challenged Kevin for linking that. So, today, if you google the name of our mutual friend, both the original post and Kevin’s link appear within the first 2 pages of links. This is I think evidence of why this stuff actually matters. Some clown sitting in his basement can write disgusting, ignorant, lies about a serious historian, and your students and my students who google that name will find those lies. So, yeah, it would be nice if bloggers would stand up for decency. Although I also take your point that it isn’t as if you as a blogger are responsible for all other bloggers.

    (7) Final thought on this rainy Memorial Day (and my birthday): As I think I said a year ago, to me the issue with blogs is simply about what people choose to talk about. There are a zillion blogs, and I don’t look at too many of them, but I have never stumbled upon a blog where folks were discussing what I was thinking about and writing about. These days I am thinking about what it meant to be a citizen in the North during the Civil War, What did citizens think their obligations were? What did Lincoln think? How should one behave in wartime? Those thoughts may or may not be particularly important, but that is what I am thinking about. I would love to stumble upon a blog where those questions were remotely related to the interests of the blogger and visitors, but I lack the knowledge to find such an internet space. That doesn’t make my questions better or worse than other questions. But until I start my own blog the simple truth is that all those Civil War blogs are discussing other sorts of things. Like Connie Chastain.

    So, Brooks, is there a good topic in this long post to discuss?
    And I do ask you to find some way to discuss it without tossing a bunch of insults at me. That is, bring your “academic historian” game to the table and not your Sean Hannity/blogger persona 🙂

    See you in Lexington?

    • Brooks D. Simpson May 28, 2012 / 6:39 pm

      Hi Matt–

      Glad to hear from you. To answer your points, one by one:

      1. If all Gary Gallagher was saying was that blogs vary in quality of content, I agree. But that’s not an exceptional observation. Moreover, as Harry Smeltzer’s pointed out, the same can be said for books and articles on the same subjects.

      2. I think that academic historians must also understand that an increasing number of students and people interested in more information get that information from going to search engines, typing in a few words, and seeing what comes out. There’s a lot of bad information out there, and academic historians might want to ponder about the impact of this on their responsibility as teachers. To pretend that this isn’t happening is foolish. As to whether historians (of various sorts) want to engage with a general public on a stage where it can get rough, well, that’s up to them. There are costs and there are benefits.

      3. I believe we’ve been over this ground before. Some people agree with Gary and you, and other people disagree. Do most academics believe that there were thousands of African Americans serving as Confederate soldiers? No … but some, such as Harvard’s John Stauffer, do. You once asked me to discuss this with Stauffer. I was perfectly willing to do so this past March at Tufts University, where both of us were scheduled to participate in a conference, but, somehow, although he had three spots on the program over two days, John failed to appear, with various excuses offered.

      I think Gary and you miss the point, however, about why some people do discuss this issue. That has to do with their position as teachers and public historians. I don’t see Kevin Levin as concerned about what professional historians think about this issue, although surely you’ll understand that it does not help when we see “Harvard researchers” cited as supporting the proposition that there were thousands of African Americans serving as soldiers in the Confederate army. He’s worried about what comes across in the classroom when students raise this question, because they’ve come across it on the internet, and they have every reason the believe it’s true. I’ve experienced this personally several times. Moreover, if we as professional historians actually care about notions of civic and historical literacy, then we should be concerned about what people learn and understand; if we want to talk so much about Civil War memory in the past, why not talk about this aspect of it in the present?

      Again, I think it is misguided when academic historians announce what colleagues should and should not discuss. We each set our own agendas for research. I have my opinions on fields where I think it’s time to move on, and I have opinions about books by professional historians that claim that they say something new when in fact they do a far better job of restating that which is already known.

      That said, I’ve already noted the decline in discussions about black Confederates, and I think Gary’s comments are dated. Do I think that was the result of interactions between bloggers and non-bloggers? No. I think that it is due largely to the decision of certain bloggers to take on the issue and address it, while non-bloggers just shook their heads in bewildered wonder about the entire subject. So we disagree.

      I note that over this calendar year I find myself addressing the issue of black Confederates on this blog only in response to historians who make an issue of saying it’s a non-issue. Here’s my question: why make an issue of a non-issue? See, I can ask that question of several of my colleagues with equal justice. Why do certain academic historians who do not blog keep raising this issue of the blogosphere and the black Confederate myth, which I think is a non-issue? I don’t care what you do with your time: why do you care what I do with mine? And why do you waste my time (and yours) with this non-issue? If it’s a non-issue, then by all means, let it go.

      I’m also a bit frustrated to see that on this and several other issues, we’re simply rehashing the same subjects. Your post suggests that nothing I say on these subjects makes much of an impact on your position, and you don’t wrestle with my responses (indeed, at points I’m reminded of your favorite Crossroads character when I read your comments … it must be something in the water in Florida, as we’ve now seen several times over the past month or so when certain people from Florida post.). You’ll understand that I’m not getting on this merry-go-round again. Enough is enough.

      4. My experience is different than yours. Perhaps that’s because these conversations usually take the form of non-bloggers asking bloggers why they do what they do, often with an air of disparagement or amusement. By definition non-bloggers don’t blog, so there seems to me little point in naming names, although I’m sure some (lurking) readers will recognize the conversations I mention. We see the tip of this iceberg in public when some non-bloggers discuss blogging. I find it interesting that people would hold forth on an activity in which they do not participate. Their feedback proves more useful and enlightening when they simply describe their reactions. And, just as Gary declined to name names, so will I.

      5. I find some visitors and commentators entertaining, but the larger point in those exchanges (which other people got) was to draw distinctions between history and heritage and highlight how some “defenders” of Confederate “heritage” are in fact using a rather twisted notion of “heritage” to advance a present political and cultural agenda. Some people served a useful purpose in that demonstration. But it is what they say and not who they are that interests me. Most of the people who visit this blog and comment on its contents I take far more seriously and respectfully. If I wanted to encourage the circus you evidently enjoy, I would let everything through. I don’t have the time or inclination to do that.

      6. “Some clown sitting in his basement can write disgusting, ignorant, lies about a serious historian, and your students and my students who google that name will find those lies.” Just as someone can post claptrap about black Confederate soldiers and your and my students who google that subject will find those lies. Now, do professional historians take Mr. Rotov seriously? Most, I imagine, do not. Is he a subject of discussion at conferences? Really? Could you point me to the session? My guess is that he does not enjoy a large audience among some professional historians, although I have seen where some of those folks under attack have defended themselves.

      Recall what I said:

      Indeed, I’d argue that academic historians who blog in the Civil War period often face criticism from their peers who feel uncomfortable about blogging or the exchanges that occur on blogs. I know I have. I’ve been chastised for failing to defend friends who are the subject of other bloggers’ ire, for example, as if I should rise to the defense of the guild as a whole.

      My take is twofold. First, I don’t always agree with the people who post here. That should be evident to even the casual observer. The appearance of someone’s name here does not denote agreement or endorsement of everything they say, do, or believe. At times I find the thrust of Dimitri’s comments on the mark. Oh, it might be better if he wasn’t so insulting, and there are times he’s misfired on his blog, and I’ve told him so privately (and occasionally on this blog) as have other historians (Ken Noe most recently). I disagree at other times. Second, if I chastised everyone who criticized a friend, then we wouldn’t have much left to post about, given how some professional historians treat each other. This sense of personal outrage was part of Gary’s argument as well, and even as some professional historians say they are above this sort of thing, they aren’t, and they waste little time in sharing links with colleagues to share some of the carping comments. Indeed, just a few weeks ago I had someone thank me for defending him against Mr. Rotov, and s/he mentioned that the only reason s/he knew about the post in question is that one of our mutual friends had alerted him/her to it. But let’s be honest: professional historians take shots at each other all the time, in private and in public, in print as well as elsewhere. And that leads me to …

      7. … where your comment (the preemptive insult) illustrates my last point rather well. As to your frustration in finding blogs that address your present interests, well, you are always free to start that discussion, and I invite you to do so here. I’m sure people would like to read Matt Gallman at his best.

      Happy birthday … and no, you won’t see me in Lexington. Take care.

      Note to readers: That’s Lexington, Kentucky, in case you thought that Professor Gallman was planning to visit Lexington, Virginia, to share his opinions about the display of Confederate flags on city lamp posts. 🙂

    • BorderRuffian May 29, 2012 / 5:43 am

      You hear that now? Make sure you use the word “Myth” after “Black Confederate.”

      The History Lords have spoken.

  8. Matt Gallman May 28, 2012 / 7:08 pm

    Not an awful lot to disagree with there

    ** Too late in the ev’g to go back and revisit, but at the time I thought that Harry S’s characterization of Gary’s editorial was not really accurate

    ** I don’t know John Stauffer at all. I assume that Kevin’s portrayal of his Harvard talk largely missed the point. Kevin was clearly not the audience, it was essentially an in house seminar But I have not idea what he really thinks about the BCM.

    ^^ On #4: I have no doubt that our perspectives are different. You are a blogger and folks know you as a blogger, so I can imagine that folks might talk with you about these issues. I have made a handful of posts on blogs (yours and Kevin’s). But I don’t recall more than 1 or 2 conversations I have had with any academic historian about blogs, and those were about the particularly libelous review that I mentioned. I just am not aware of any serious conversation about academic historians who are upset about blogs. Is this really an issue?

    ** On #6: I honestly can’t think of any professional historian who has behaved the way Rotov behaves. The good news is that he is just one guy and doesn’t speak for blogging. The bad news is that he is associated with you in that you are both bloggers who periodically praise each other. But, no, I have no familiarity with any historian in my career who has – either privately or in public – behaved like him He is of a different sort of world. Which is fine, except that “google” does not flag people like him. For Brooks’ readers who read this: Please understand that I have no idea who this guy is, and I have been in this field for over 30 years. Please do not read him and think that he is speaking for serious Civil War historians.

    ** On #7: My point is not to criticize the platform. I can imagine a blog that was interested in the stuff I was interested in. I can even imagine who might post there. But I don’t think it exists, That simply means that as far as I know, I can’t find an internet discussion of the topics that are most interesting to me right now. For what it is worth, I think that the discussions of Civil War memory, the COnfederate flag, neo-Confederate ideas etc are all important and interesting, They aren’t my own personal focus, but I think that those issues are interesting to read about (and more “important” than the whole BCM thing). I am less convinced that Connie C is all that important, but she sure as heck is entertaining

    • Brooks D. Simpson May 28, 2012 / 8:00 pm

      In response …

      *** I’m not quite sure what Gary’s point was in holding forth as he did. But that’s okay. I don’t feel targeted. Others have offered their assessments. I’m sure he’s aware of those assessments.

      *** We’ve already been over how Stauffer’s presentation was reported. I’ve seen nothing from him to suggest he’s been misrepresented. That John misrepresented what I have said is obvious. John reads blogs, too, and he’s not shy about offering his opinion.

      *** Folks know me as a professional historian who (among other things) blogs. I doubt that Gary’s critical comments about blogging in print were directed at me. He can correct that impression if he so desires. I took exception to exactly one point, but that was all. Otherwise, I’m not sure what the fuss was about.

      *** I won’t get into the behavior of some of our colleagues. Simply put, my experience is different. I can name several mutual friends who are rather touchy about the issue of blogging, and about my blogging. I can also name some mutual friends and acquaintances who see blogging (and the internet) as transforming everything. I’m not among them. I’ll leave it at that.

      *** I agree with you that your favorite character is not important. She concurs in her own lack of importance. So why bring her up except as a handy way to examine a broader issue? There she’s quite useful. And please stop evilizing her. 🙂 As for finding blogs that interest you, well, I’d suggest that if you spent as much time blogging about substantive historical issues as you do about blogging, you would have quite a blog by now, and you would generate the very discussions you want to have. That goes for other academic historians as well. But you can’t complain about the way the game is played when you could very well play it yourself and thus change it.

  9. Patrick Young May 29, 2012 / 6:12 am

    I’d be interested is a Matt Gallman blog on issues of Northern identity.

  10. David Rhoads May 29, 2012 / 7:27 am

    Re Dimitri Rotov and Matt’s comment that he “honestly can’t think of any professional historian who has behaved the way Rotov behaves”: When I read Matt’s comment, Robert Krick’s review of W.G. Piston’s “Lee’s Tarnished Lieutenant” immediately came to mind as an example of similar behavior by a professional historian. So that’s one example just from the ACW field, and I suspect it wouldn’t be difficult to find more, especially if one focused primarily on book reviews published in newspapers as opposed to peer-reviewed articles. Maybe blogging really is a “different sort of world”, but it’s not because all the other worlds are devoid of gadflies.

  11. Margaret D. Blough May 29, 2012 / 7:13 pm

    I believe Edward Sebasta qualifies as a “professional historian” and he can be extremely intemperate in his criticism of others, including The Museum of the Confederacy and Kevin Levin. As for Robert K. Krick and his criticism of Piston’s (or anyone who does anything but portray James Longstreet as a psychotic traitor to the Confederacy), I’ve had people try to make excuses for him (he’s trying to stir things up, be funny, etc.), I believe a scholar can have strong reactions, even negative ones, to a subject but a line is crossed when it becomes personal rage, be it against a subject, another scholar, etc. It’s just as much a problem when a scholar becomes too fond of someone they are researching and write hagiography rather than biography.

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