Michael Bellesisles – Tool. Chronicle of Higher Education – Worse.

Asked for a response, Mr. Bellesiles said he was saddened that his student had altered the details of a personal tragedy and that he regretted that he had unknowingly passed on a story that was not accurate. “But I hope that no one mistakes the point of my article in calling for greater sympathy and support in our colleges for veterans and the families of those who have suffered loss in our current wars.”

In other words, Bellesisles’s p.o.v. trumps things like truth. Historian? Maybe an op-ed author. If Bellesisles were a plant by evil Academe-haters he couldn’t be doing a better job.

Here’s his recent, egregiously incorrect, article in the Chronicle.

The Chronicle should never have accepted a story from this man without asking for documentation.
Here is a quick look at what was kinda obviously questionable – really, Prof. Lindgren checked some facts available online to the casual researcher.
I’m sorry that my ancient blogspot archives are gone, or you could see what I think about Bellesisles. Quick summary – liar.

Jousting as the next Xsport!

Sad attitude about the Middle Ages, but still!

The championship event was created by two men, both professional jousters, who are on a mission to transform jousting from Renaissance-fair entertainment to arena sport. One is Shane Adams, the knight who unhorsed Tolle. The other is Charlie Andrews, a Hummer-driving former bull rider who spent six years as a Navy Seal and is hard-pressed to utter a sentence that doesn’t include at least one profanity. “I personally believe that Shane Adams and myself are the two best jousters in the world, period,” he says. “Anybody wants to argue it, you can come out and joust us or shut your pie hole.”
A member of the Chukchansi tribe in California, Andrews is 6-foot-4 and about 250 pounds, with tattoos of his spirit animals ringing his thick biceps. He doesn’t joust because he’s attracted to romantic notions of honor and chivalry or because he has an affinity for the medieval period. (“I don’t know jack about history, nor do I care,” he says.) He does it because he considers jousting one of the most extreme sports ever invented, and he likes doing things that most other people can’t or won’t do.

22 Years detetecting and now he finds a hoard of 52,000 coins

The BBC has video. And a further story with a picture of the enormous jar of coins in situ.
52,000 coins – mainly 3rd century. Some of them are on view temporarily at the British Museum. The detectorist knew he had something big – he backed off and contacted the Portable Antiquity Scheme and let them excavate. The first idea is that this is not a hoard intended for recovery (someone’s savings or something buried at a time of emergency) but a votive offering. Neat!

Carnivalesque 63

Carnivalesque 63 – an Ancient and Medieval Version!
Do cities that are just NOT THERE any more matter? You bet they do! But how do we show people what was there if there’s no there there any more? Go look at what can be done with Antioch on the Orontes.
How do you get extant but really fragile manuscripts out of the library where more than one scholar at a time can use them? Here are some really interesting digitalization examples.
And how do you get the DNA out of a manuscript folio to figure out things about – well, about everything, starting with the sheep herd the page was made from. Well, first you have to convince a librarian that a set of 40-micron diameter holes in the edge of a manuscript is acceptable. Then you have to use Michael Drout’s new machine – prototype now available!
Bit players in the grand play of the Fall of the Roman Empire and the eventual emergence of the modern western European nations? Not so fast, buddy! Go read about the Burgundian Civil War and think harder about what makes people(s) central to the story.
Not a bit player at all – the power behind the throne – a new life of the Empress Theodora.
Periodization is always a question. In question? Questionable? But much like bit players and great powers, definition is important, if impossible. Magistra et Mater asks “How late should the late antique go?”
So you didn’t make it to Kalamazoo this year? Jonathan Jarrett covered a BUNCH of sessions incredibly thoroughly – here, here, here, and here He’s not quite Prof. Dr. Boethius P. von Korncrake, but hey – most of us aren’t.
The most important Kalamazoo news? The Chaucer Blogger steps forward!
And finally, what I think must be the most-forwarded ancient or medieval story of the year — the lurid cemetary of the Gladiators at York. Men bitten by Tigers! Differential development of right arms! At least three of my students in Greek Art & Architecture this semester forwarded this to me – and it was on every list serve I’m on, too. And then ADM sent it as a suggestion, too – so clearly Gladiators are In the News!
Happy reading!

What do you listen to when you’re reading about the end of the world?

Maybe it’s because I’m reading about revolution that I need something sounder in the background – so I’ve been listening to some Brahms lately. Tonight Service’s Trotsky palled a little, so I googled about Brahms. I’m not musical at all and any help is – um – helpful.
Did you know there were online versions of listening guides for this kind of thing? Here’s what i was listening to tonight – the Symphony #1 in C Minor – listening guide here. I own the von Karajan/Berlin Symphony Orchestra recording, so the timings are off a little, but I not dim enough that I can’t pick up on that kind of thing.
The alphorn tune (about 3 minutes into the 4th movement) is one of the great calming motives in music. Grand stuff – and a great antidote to the October Revolution. Or at least to reading about it.
And the main theme is the big tune – which all of us who went to Miss Bright’s School can play on two or three instruments . . . yes, the Bright School Song – “may we be your source of pride / through all the coming years.” It’s a lot to live up to. But sometimes it helps to sing it to yourself and remember that we were cheerfully embedded in Big European Culture before we were old enough to resist. And I’m grateful to my parents, teachers, and whoever let me into the Bright School on a couple of weeks notice in the summer of 1967 for that.
I’m also grateful to Kelly Dean Hansen for the listening guides!
Here’s a free version of the symphony in case you don’t have a copy. And a link to the Bright School Song.

How had I missed this blog?

The Digitised Manuscripts Blog – the digitalization project of the British Library. Here’s the “about” statement:

The Digitised Manuscripts Blog covers not only the progress of current digitisation projects at the British Library, such as the Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project, but also more generally all topics associated with generating digital images of manuscripts, making them available to researchers, and pursuing old and new ways of researching digital surrogates of ancient manuscripts.

Their initial project is 250 Greek manuscripts, but there is some interesting discussion in the comments about what manuscripts people would like to see scannedl
A colleague sent me a link to a current entry on the Vatican’s decision to go ahead with digitalizing 80,000 manuscripts (40,000,000 manuscript pages, on estimate). Neat blog!

Yet another cultural property story

Some Scottish MP (as opposed to some member of the Scottish Parliament?) is demanding the return of the Lewis Chessmen. To the Hebrides. *BIG SIGH*
The MP is also annoyed because the British Museum (and all other medievalists) think they were made in Norway, not in the Hebrides.
Yeah, if there’s a bigger museum on that island some more people will visit. I say send them an assortment – maybe a dozen. There are something like 80 of them, all told, in the British Museum and in Edinburgh.

And he says architecture has a vacant stare?

I think the author of this critique of the latest tallest building in the world is looking a little dim himself.


But the extent to which the building had to battle worries about the wisdom of its construction even before it was finished — the way it seemed doomed, at least in financial terms, while it was still going up — may be unique in the history of skyscraper design. In that sense it seems impossible to write about the Burj Dubai without at least mentioning the Tower of Babel, which also, if the biblical story and various historical sketches are to be believed, combined a tapering, corkscrew design with heaps of overconfidence.

Luckily, someone in the comment section already pounced and reminded him of the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center towers – both completed as spectacularly empty monuments.
The long-term memory (let alone knowledge of History) of the average journalist or stock trader never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps it is because they’re all too young? Whenever I read one of those paragraph openers about “none of the traders active today remember a downturn like this” I realize that I am not only middle aged but that I also have a reasonably detailed memory of my childhood – I remember stagflation, inflation, and other flations. And then I heard stories about the Depression.
Please, people – learn your field before you use the phrase “unique in the history of….” There is nothing particularly new under the Sun.

It’s always nice to know the British can be ignorant too, despite their nice accents.

In a savage attack, Andrew Grant, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), compared the Government’s crackdown on independent schools’ charitable status to Henry VIII’s seizure of land and property in the 1500s.
. . .
He compared the move to Henry VIII’s decision in the 1530s to shut down English monasteries and nunneries, confiscating all land and property for the crown. It was sold to pay for Government expenditure.
Addressing headmasters on Monday, Mr Grant said: “Let’s be clear: the threat that currently underlies the Charity Commission’s guidance is the well-tried mediaeval one of confiscation of land and property and it looks no less crude and ugly under the rose of Labour than it did under the rose of Tudor. Down in St Albans, we’ve been there before, of course, in 1539, when the monastery was dissolved.”

By any stretch of the historiographical imagination, of course, Henry VIII is Renaissance or Early Modern. Keep your objurgations more current, Mr. Grant!
Then there’s this interesting bit of academic class warfare:

The comments came as the University and College Union, which represents lecturers, said private schools’ charitable status should be abolished. It claimed the £100m a year saving could pay for 20,000 extra university places.

Frustrate Comments

Oh well – I’ll give up trying to post a comment over there and post it here. Maybe my old log in has died, since I haven’t commented at Cliopatria in a long time.

I mentioned a few days ago that the group blog at Cliopatria had only noted some published reviews of the Taylor Branch/Bill Clinton book rather than blogging directly about the situation.
Ralph Luker responded on Cliopatria, and provides a glimpse of what he sees as the real scandal. Luker says:

The scandal isn’t even, as Tinkler seems to think, that the interviews were conducted privately or that other historians are denied access to them. Frustrating as it may be, that is very commonly the case in contemporary history. The scandal of Branch’s new book is that even he had no access to the tapes that he and Bill Clinton had created. All Branch had were his notes and recorded memories of the interviews that he created after leaving the interviews with Clinton.

That’s interesting! And it answers my real query; I wondered what someone over there thought about it – simple links to published reviews wasn’t doing it for me. Luker is a historian of the 20th Century who uses a lot of direct material – interviews and papers – so his opinion about the kind of archival and access issues involved in taped discussions is useful to know.

How long do people who specialize in RIGHT NOW need to read a book?

I find it odd that the only two mentions on Cliopatria, the History News Network blog, of the Taylor Branch/Bill Clinton interview book are published reviews. I mean, come on. Tell us what you think! Isn’t it interesting that he was giving these private interviews to one historian and denying the rest of you access?? Any ideas of what this means to the profession?
What I’ve read on the web makes me eager to run into the president of my Colleges in a private corner to ask what he thinks.
Further – Ralph Luker responds and I thank him for the insight.