I don’t want to get unnecessarily doom-saying but there’s been a few seriously worrying ideas for the field propounded on the Interweb just lately. The first I noticed was a post at Livius, a blog I didn’t know before but which I was pointed at by this post at Glossographia, explaining that there is good basis to think that most of the misinformation in history and classics is created not by amateur pseudo-scholars but by we ourselves the experts, talking out of our field. Well, this is something I would have to admit to, and this paragraph gave me the guilt chills:
The second consequence of specialization is that no one is sufficiently trained to teach. For example, it can happen that someone who knows everything about the crisis of the third century, must introduce first-year students to the basic outline of ancient history. Because this teacher cannot know everything about every specialization, it is likely that he will offer an outdated account, say, of the Peloponnesian War. Many books written for the larger audience suffer from the same weakness.
More specifically, however, the author points out that while we hide genuine scholarly work behind pay-walls and everything else is flung on the Internet for free, we can’t be surprised if people read what’s there rather than what’s kept from them. Here I think there is a genuine issue, which lies somewhere between revenue protection and gatekeeping, both of which might be necessary (note the lack of indicative there) but neither of which are exactly noble in a discipline that prides itself on promoting free thought. So I would recommend a read of it.
Secondly, you may have seen the plea from Neville of the eponymous Combate for people to get on board a petition that he plugged here to protect the Asturian area of Carondio from development for wind-farms. Now, I recognise that wind-farms are probably most of what is going to be done about renewable energy for the next few years, more’s the pity, and that they therefore have to go somewhere, but, this is not the place. And I don’t just mean because, as Neville believes, there may be a political agenda slighting non-Roman pre-Asturian remains here; I don’t know about that though if the idea intrigues you, this is largely what Neville is combating. I mean because the country’s courts have already decided this development should not go ahead for reasons of the damage to the historical environment, and this verdict is not being enforced and the building work going ahead anyway. So if you feel like interfering in someone else’s country, you’re unlikely to get a more justifiable cause than this. Also, Neville’s choice of illustration for his post is absolutely bloody perfect. So go have a look: the petition text is in English, if that’s what bothering you.
Lastly, is it just me or has this guy’s quite compelling argument about what constitutes modernity just unhinged a good chunk of our commnest arguments about the so-called `relevance’ of the Middle Ages to the modern world? I keep telling people we have to concentrate on the interest value itself… This link via Cliopatria, where some day I’m sure I will have something to add once more.