Monday, October 30, 2006

Congratulations to Howard G. Brown, seen right looking less pleased than he might. Howard is Professor of History at The State University of New York, Binghamton. A proud graduate of the U of S (B.A. Hons, 1985), his new book Ending the French Revolution: Violence, Justice, And Repression from the Terror to Napoleon (University of Virginia Press, 2006) has just been awarded the American Historical Association's 2006 Leo Gershoy Award for the best book in seventeenth and eighteenth-century European history. This puts Howard in very select company indeed: since its inception in 1977 the award has been won by Simon Schama, Robert Darnton, J.H. Elliott, John Beattie, Isser Woloch, and Roy Porter, among others.

What makes Howard's book so valuable is that although for two centuries the early years of the French Revolution have inspired countless democratic movements around the world, little attention has been paid to the problems of violence, justice, and repression between the Reign of Terror and the dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte. In Ending the French Revolution, Howard analyzes these years to reveal the true difficulty of founding a liberal democracy in the midst of continual warfare, repeated coups d'├ętat, and endemic civil strife.

And if that sounds like a familiar challenge, you might care to read Howard's op-ed piece in the August 4, 2006 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, in which he draws striking, and sobering, parallels between the nation-building efforts of the French Directory and those of the Bush Administration. To read it, click here if you have U of S library access.
Congratulations to Colin Dueck (M.A., 1992) who was in town this last weekend for the McNally Robinson launch of his book Reluctant Crusaders: Power, Culture, and Change in American Grand Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2006), which examines patterns of change and continuity in American foreign policy strategy by looking at four major turning points: the periods following World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Colin shows how American cultural assumptions regarding liberal foreign policy goals, together with international pressures, have acted to push and pull U.S. policy in competing directions over time. The result is a book that combines an appreciation for the role of both power and culture in international affairs. Colin was a student of Ivo Lambi's, and from the U of S he proceeded to a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford, then to a doctorate at Princeton. He is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
HUSA is up and running this year, and upcoming events include the following:

1) "Remember, remember, the fifth of November!" Come celebrate Guy Fawkes' Night with HUSA this Saturday, November 4th (November 5th in England). Festivities begin at Winston's pub (below the Senator hotel downtown) at 8pm. "Traditional Guy Fawkes' day celebrations" to follow at location TBA.

2) The infamous HUSA Meet the Profs Night is coming soon! (Fashionably late, but all the more welcome). Come meet (or re-meet, or meet outside the classroom) your favourite history professors on November 17 at Louis' pub on campus, starting at 5pm. (Details with Louis' are being hammered out, but this date is not likely to change, and if it does, we'll let you know asap!). Free food and beverages (both fermented and non-) will be served! Hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

If you have not yet explored the burgeoning world of Google Books, you probably should. (Google Scholar,, another increasingly indispensable arrow in our quiver, is a separate project altogether.) In its ongoing efforts to be all things to all people always, and for free, Google is rolling out the fruits of its controversial labours to render the world's books in electronic form. Simply Google "Google Books" and start searching. As in Google Scholar, but unlike pretty much every other known bibliographic search engine, searches carried out in Google Book search through content as well as the bibliographic details.

Only very limited access is available for copyrighted material, but having found something one can always swing from Google Books over to the University Library. For material out of copyright, however, the entire tome is often provided, and the option of downloading the whole thing as a PDF file is sometimes offered. At the start of each search you can choose to call up only "Full View Books" if you wish. Once found, you can click on the index or, perhaps better yet, used the search facility to check through the text itself.

Curiously, clicking on a desired item found in a search will often land you on a fairly random early page: typing the Roman numeral "i" in the box for page searches will get you right back to the start of the scan -- quite possibly to the outside cover of the book, in fact, from where you can advance forward.

The materials currently on offer reflect the idiosyncrasies of the scanning process, which is spread among a number of major research libraries. People researching nineteenth-century topics will find a vast array of materials now out of copyright. Happily, the bounty of the 1800s includes many antiquarian editions of medieval and early modern manuscript sources, as well as nineteenth-century editions of earlier titles that might or might not have made it to ECCO or EEBO.

We had our best people take Google Book out for a spin, and here are some of the completely random results they came back with.
  • John Spalding's indispensable but not entirely trustworthy Memorialls of the Trubles in Scotland and in England. A.D. 1624-A.D. 1645 is available, albeit the first volume is from the flawed 1828 edition, and the second from the superior 1851 edition. Go figure.
  • The Diary of Alexander Jaffray is so far provided in the 1833 edition, so we must still await the preferred 1856 edition.
  • Those of you who look back fondly to the days when no good sin went unpunished will rejoice, or at least nod approvingly, at the news that John Stuart's undeservedly ignored edition of the Selections from the Records of the Kirk Session, Presbytery, and Synod of Aberdeen (Aberdeen, 1846) is available in its censorious entirety.
  • To show that even Google is not perfect, we can confirm the widely unreported fact that there is a scanning flaw on page 82 of the first volume of Miscellany of the Spalding Club (Aberdeen, 1841) -- so don't discard those old photocopies just yet! Being Google, however, we were invited to report the flaw on a straightforward form that conveys every intention to fix the problem.

All in all, Google Books marks yet another stride in the electronic revolution that is making it easier for Saskatoon-based historians to conduct advanced research, and harder to plead that the sources are not available locally.
Congratulations to all the newly-minted History graduates who received their Batchelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees on Saturday, October 28th at the Fall Convocation.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The History Graduate Students Colloquium will reconvene this Friday, October 27th downstairs in the Faculty Club, at 3:30 pm. The speakers will be Charles Robertson, "Saint Augustine, Vatican II and the Development of Catholic Doctrine: A Study of Lumen Gentium and De Baptismo Contra Donatistas"; and Scott Wright, "Timbuktu and the Imperial Imagination". This will involve an examination of how French explorers and geographers manipulated the idea of Timbuktu to further their aims of empire-building in 19th century West Africa. Everyone welcome, especially each and every History grad student.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Here's something very useful to check out. With eScholarship Editions, the University of California Press has digitized all the books it has published in living memory, and about one-third of those have been made available to the reading public, free of charge, in their searchable and printable entirety. Searching for the keyword "History" finds 518 books available to the likes of us, free. These include all kinds of recent and important works, including, for example, David B. Edwards, Before Taliban: Genealogies of the Afghan Jihad (2002); Antoinette Burton, At the Heart of the Empire: Indians and the Colonial Encounter in Late-Victorian Britain (2000); and Peter Earle, The Making of the English Middle Class: Business, Society and Family Life in London 1660-1730 (1989). There are even numerous volumes on the history of science, if you really must. Having these texts available means that students can get their mitts on them when they need them, and instructors can assign them to an unlimited number of students. And did we say they were free? Check out the whole list at
The next CMRS Colloquium is this Thursday, October 26th, and will feature Moira Day's presentation of "From Bell's Psyche to Euripedes' Trojan Women: Women Preserving the 'Bright Torch' in Wartime on the Canadian Campus, 1914-1920". STM 344B, 4:00 for refreshments, paper at 4:30. Everyone welcome. Click here to see the poster.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Library Changes: As some of you may know, the Main Library is beginning to undergo major renovations to accomodate the new University Learning Centre, which will take up much of the current entry level and first floor of the main building. The ULC, as it seems destined to be known pending a corporate benefactor, promises to become a much-needed focal point for student life and study on campus, but nothing is without its costs and one consequence of the reconfiguration of Library space is that about 5 km of shelf space will disappear. More space than you might think can be reclaimed in various creative ways, such as utilizing the currently empty top shelves, and leaving less open space on the shelves. Some materials currently on the shelves, however, will definitely have to be moved out of the building. The History Department, led by our faculty Library Liason, Lisa Smith, has been monitoring these developments, and we are pleased to say that nearly all of our initial concerns have been put to rest. The majority of the items to be removed will be paper copies of journals now available in electronic format. The library will retain the paper copies, transferring them to a storage facility across campus. In certain instances -- journals with high quality printed images, for example -- the originals may be retained on the Main Library shelves even if there is an electronic copy. Other materials judged to be little used, especially those for which there is an alternative electronic source, will be moved to the storage facility as well. These will continue to be listed in the cataglogue, and readers will be able to order them and collect them a day or so library from the library. Similar arrangements have been made by university libaries everywhere, since they almost all face similar challenges relating to storage space. Our new storage facility, like its counterparts elsewhere, will be accessible only to library staff, a move necessitated by security and building code concerns: shelves in the Library proper, for example, need to be far enough apart to afford wheel chair access, whereas in the storage facility they can be set up with narrower corridors.

We would all prefer that all our books were always right where we would wish them, but given that something has to give, our friends and colleagues in the Library are, as usual, making careful and astute decisions with our needs and wishes very much on their minds. We can also look forward to further consultation as further decisions regarding history materials come to be made.
Chris Kent has alerted What's Up to the sad news of the passing of Arthur Marwick, Professor of History at Britain's Open University and a historian whose influential works on the methodology and the study of history have been widely taught and read for nearly four decades (though he was only 70 when he died.). Click here for this exemplary obituary from the Guardian newspaper.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bill Waiser has been a member of our department for so long (sorry Bill) that it is easy to forget that he was once our (institutionally speaking) student, having earned his MA (1976) and Ph.D. (1983) on our very own seventh floor. This past Thursday evening, October 12th, Bill was presented with the University of Saskatchewan Alumni Honour Award, in recognition of Bill having recieved "notable acclaim for professional achievements, which in turn has enhanced the image of the University of Saskatchewan and its alumni." You need only scroll a ways down our fair blog, or check with your friends at Google, to review some of the acclaim that has justly come Bill's way.
Who says U of S students don't get around? Two of our M.A. candidates, Chris Clarke and Cameron Goodfellow will be presenting next weekend (October 21-22) at the 8th Annual University of Maine - University of New Brunswick History Graduate Student Conference, held this year at the U of M in Orono, Maine. Chris' paper is entitled "Innovations in Publishing -- From Vespucci to Blogspot: 1500-2006", and Cameron's is on "John Partridge's Books of Secrets: Trade Manual or Popular Press".
In the fantastic news department, Yimin Zhang, our sessional lecturer in East Asian history, has just successfully defended his doctoral dissertation at McGill University. His thesis title is "The Role of Literati in Military Action during the Ming-Qing Transition Period." Congratulations, Yimin!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Bill Waiser has just been named one of the five new recipients of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, the highest honour bestowed by the Province of Saskatchewan. Bill joins an illustrious list of 141 holders of the award who have been honoured since it was instituted in 1985. Bill, described in classic Star Phoenix style as a "Saskatoon storyteller" and "history buff" -- which indeed he is -- is being recognized for his outstanding work in not only uncovering and writing the history of this province, but in making that history accessible to the wider public, especially through his much-honoured Saskatchewan: A New History (2005). The award will be presented in November by our new (and our own) Lieutenant Governor, Gordon Barnhardt (Ph.D., 1998), who announced the names of the recipients on October 6th. Bill has postponed a planned trip to Japan, where he was to give lectures on Saskatchewan history, in order to attend the awards ceremony. When you see Bill, be sure to congratulate him on this latest, and richly deserved honour. He has, not for the first time, done us all proud.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Need help with research? Who doesn't? To get the help you need, drop in for a HISTORY RESEARCH HELP SESSION at the Main Library--Room 161 on Tuesday, October 10 at 1:00 p.m. The session is scheduled for 1:00-2:30 p.m. Students are encouraged to bring questions related to their specific research needs and will have an opportunity for hands-on practice. No need to pre-register – just drop in!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Congratulations to Erin Millions (M.A., 2004), who -- surrounded by archaeologists and historians alike -- married her longtime partner Perry on September 3rd. Erin and Perry (and Monster) live in Calgary now. Posted by Picasa