Long-term readers may know that I used to be a contributor to a group blog at the Humanities News Network site, which was called Cliopatria. Cliopatria was kind of a lead singer and his backing band; Ralph Luker, the editor, did most of the posting and various other people chimed in every now and then, and from 2009 to the blog’s closure in 2012 I was one of those people. I always found Cliopatria a difficult audience to pitch for; I had been asked to contribute as a medievalist, but despite my efforts and those of the two East Asian studies people also contributing the bulk of both posting and commenting was modern-US-centric. I therefore wound up focusing my activity there either on things about scholarship on the Middle Ages I thought would interest other fields or, and here I had company, on the state of the Academy. Some of that material also appeared here, and I generally mentioned here when I’d got something up there, but I did try and make sure that I was writing distinctly for each blog.
Despite that, in general my posts went uncommented and in fact, it was then usual for me to get more comments and feedback here than anyone ever got on Cliopatria, so I posted there only rarely. Then, somewhere in 2011 I think, HNN had a redesign that changed their stylesheet and effectively wrecked anything that anyone had previously done with HTML tags; quotations ceased to be distinguishable from paragraph text, for example, and hyperlinked text appeared three point sizes smaller than that around it. Much of my existing content now looked stupid or wrong and it was hard to work in the new template; links inside the blog stopped working and posting, not just mine but everybody’s but Ralph’s, dropped right off. It struggled on a little longer and then Ralph finally closed the blog in early 2012. It remains readable, but I learn in writing this that Ralph himself died in August 2015, which I am saddened by. May he rest easily.
Since then, anyway, I’ve occasionally had reason to go back to my Cliopatria posts for something, and they are really hard to find. The site has been redesigned again since Cliopatria closed and things now look better, though not as good as they did before the first redesign; but the links to individual authors’ works have gone, as have all the comments, and its internal search is lousy. My name doesn’t appear over all my posts, and neither my own list of links or Google can bring back everything I wrote there. So for some time I’ve been meaning to put together a list of my posts, for my own reference as much as anything, and this is that list. In compiling it, I’ve discovered quite a number of things I had completely forgotten writing, and I fear that there may still be more I haven’t found. What I have, I’ve broken down by categories and arranged by date within them, and if you wanted to go and read any of them that would be lovely, though I’ve also indicated where they also appear here at A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe because those are easier reading still. When it drops off the front page I’ll set this post up as its own page. In the meantime, this is what I did for Cliopatria.
Actual Research Posts
These were generally poorly-judged for Cliopatria and usually also appeared here. After a while I stopped doing them except out of guilt at having not posted for ages.
- “Words That All Mean the Same Thing (in Medieval Spanish Slave-Owning)”, on slaves versus serfs in my documents and those of others, first ever post to Cliopatria and way way too long for their usual traffic
- “Three Sorts of Priest, Part 1: evidence for priests and their books on the tenth-century Spanish March”, 15 April 2009, first of a three-part series showcasing my thinking about the early medieval priesthood in my area of study and how we can know about it, cross-posted from here
- “Three Sorts of Priest, Part 2: the lost mother churches of St Peter”, 28 April 2009, second part of the same series, cross-posted from here
- “Three Sorts of Priest, Part 3: important men, so long as no-one’s looking”, 1 May 2009, the third and last, cross-posted from here
- “Hugely Important Archæological Technique Not Quite So Important Once Actually Published”, 31 May 2009, on rehydroxilation dating of ceramics and how badly it was publicised, worth a look still
- “Interdisciplinary Conversation in Several Directions”, 15 June 2009, a combination review of two seminar presentations on hardly-medieval or non-medieval subjects used to reflect on how interdisciplinary study can best be done, at a point when I was still feeling my way round such ideas; a short version also appeared here
- “Doublepoints (Peasants, Ghosts and Memory)”, 31 July 2009, reflections provoked by Simon Doubleday’s chapter in Thomas Bisson’s Festschrift, not my worst writing
- “Now *This* is Interdisciplinary, if You Want (a Testimonial)”, 21 August 2009, an enthusiastic write-up (too enthusiastic) of the work at Harvard then building into the Science of the Human Past initiative, also posted here
- “‘All the Gold I Could Eat’: Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon Weapon Fittings”, 27 September 2009, disputed by Guy Halsall even, yet, already, and a short version here
- “From the Sources: your actual medieval simony”, 30 November 2009, a post from here I thought played close enough to some clichés to be worth trying over there
- “From the Sources II: Sant Joan de les Abadesses and the men of Gombrèn”, 7 December 2009, another failed attempt to get some interest over there in something I’d ordinarily have kept for here
- “Eadgyth After Ealle”, 8 July 2010, a report on the identification using Science! of the body of an Anglo-Saxon princess at Magdeburg Cathedral, somehow never posted here
- “Improbable Arguments in Ninth-Century Girona”, 11 October 2011, another post from here duplicated on Cliopatria because of a long silence
Medievalism in the Modern World
A long-term strand of my blogging, this, but all the more important where medievalists would not normally tread but modernists are still reading it. These are probably the posts I’m proudest of writing at Cliopatria, I think they were useful and good publicity for why having experts on this stuff is sometimes helpful.
- “Fluffy Vikings in the UK Newspapers”, 31 March 2009, a report on press coverage of a conference I couldn’t go to, cross-posted here
- “Darn Climate Sceptics! Get Out of My Field!”, 8 January 2010, intemperate (though I stand by the argument), upset people, and rapidly tempered as a result here
- “Just One Long Ordeal?”, 15 February 2010, arguing with an article by Peter Leeson applying game theory to trial by ordeal, still a quite good example of me in take-down mode if I do say so myself
- “Lost in Translation, or, Inside Higher Ed Needs ‘une durée critique plus longue'”, 3 June 2010, arguing with a review of a book saying that “re-commemorating an individual’s life by moving his remains is quintessentially modern” on obvious grounds
- “Cordoba: 1010, in the 20:20 of hindsight”, 22 September 2010, on the absurd claims made by Newt Gingrich among others about the then-proposed Cordoba Centre in New York City, possibly the best thing I did for Cliopatria
- “Coalition Government and the Norman Conquest of England”, 3 January 2011, probably belongs in the below more than this category but it is medieval history used to make a modern point, and I’m less sorry about it than I am most of the below…
- “Is Neo-Medieval the New Medieval?”, 4 March 2011, a response to an intelligent and provocative essay by Parag Khanna likening the modern USA to the later Byzantine Empire
- “Of Monks, Canons and New Toilets”, 29 April 2011, a short wry comment on building works at Winchester cathedral which I immediately cross-posted here because that was when HNN’s first redesign happened and my post there didn’t actually appear on the blog for a month or so
The State of the Academy
I’m much less sure about these posts, as a rule. In particular, they mostly come from the point when the Conservative Party under David Cameron was just beginning to muck about with UK higher education funding; a lot of people were self-righteously angry and it was easy to get on that bandwagon without necessarily thinking too hard. After all, the government was directing baton charges against schoolchildren protesting about tuition fees; if you weren’t angry, you arguably weren’t paying attention. Also, though, for much of my time on Cliopatria I was at Oxford, which the more I look back on it (or read my leftover issues of The Oxford Magazine) looks like a bubble of small-c conservative privilege I wasn’t then fully able to see out of. The people writing in the Magazine clearly don’t represent their colleagues very widely—Oxford has not gone private, banned tourists from the Bodleian Library, legislated to remove authority from its own Council or cut back the university administration, or any of the other things for which they regularly campaigned, for a start—but Oxford also doesn’t represent the rest of UK HE very well, and I honestly just didn’t realise how true that was till I got out. So these posts come from an odd, and rather blinkered, place, and occasionally I got pulled up for that. Still, there are some good rants there and a few things I’d still stand by.
- “When Medievalists Go Bad, Hard Times Edition”, 12 February 2009, on Richard Hodges’s appointment to the directorship of the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology and his immediate cutting of 18 research jobs
- “Vocational Ph. D. Programs”, 28 February 2009, a shortened version of this post here
- “Hayden White, Move Over”, 30 March 2009, a rant I now sort of regret about how postmodernism in textual criticism isn’t new or very useful, still worth it for foregrounding the work of Carl Lotus Becker but otherwise naïf and makes me cringe, though the subsequent argument with the people at In The Medieval Middle was well worth all the pain of self-realisation
- “‘Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a protest song…'”, 24 April 2009, on student protests and the violence worldwide used to suppress them; still gets me cross, so probably OK
- “Labcoats and Tweed Jackets”, 8 June 2009, a musing prompted by the anniversary of C. P. Snow’s essay “The Two Cultures”, still OK
- “Know Ye Not that We Shall Judge Politicians?”, 5 January 2010, on what people want of historians as opposed to what we’re funded for, as applied to climate politics; half-baked but not dreadful I suppose
- “The Terrible Situation of Kings College London”, 12 February 2010, on the end of palæography and other cuts at KCL, also posted here
- “History Argues Against Cuts in Academia (Argue Academic Historians)”, 8 April 2010, a response to some advocacy by the History and Policy group, a body about which I was then and still am very dubious
- “Why Should History Have To Engage the Public, Asks Richard Overy”, 14 June 2010, commentary on a learned defence of a learned sort of history based on questions not answers; this was quite a good post, I think, and it was recognised as such by being syndicated on HNN’s main page as “Should Historians Have to Engage the Public?” on 4 July 2010 here
- “Coalition Government and the Norman Conquest of England”, 3 January 2011: see above for notes
- “A Request for your Signatures, or, After the Protest a Petition”, 13 January 2011, asking for help with a petition I’d seen protesting about the suppression of free speech in the Academy, crossposted here; it all looks a bit exaggerated now but I’m glad I stood up
- “UK HE Suicide Pact: Cambridge first”, 26 February 2011, on Cambridge’s raising of tuition fees, definitely from inside the Oxford bubble for all that some points hold good
- “That Fabled UK Perspective”, 23 March 2011, a short and light-hearted disambiguation of England and the United Kingdom that perhaps no-one needed
- “Against Marketization Becoming Marketisation”, 30 May 2011, just awful really, sorry
- “A Vote of No Confidence”, 2 July 2011, on Oxford’s expressive but rather self-gratulatory democratically thumbed nose to the then-Minister for Higher Education, David Willetts; fairly awful, sorry
- “The Correct Target for the Humanities Survivalist”, 17 July 2011, also pretty dire
- “‘They Are Trying To Rob Us of Our Right To Communicate'”, 3 February 2012, a dark and paranoid musing about the agenda if any of the UK government’s education policy, probably still true
- “A Historian’s Place in (Current) Politics”, 13 February 2012, an equally depressing reprise of my old argument that to put history to use is to misuse it, not something I still hold to this degree, and my final post there before Cliopatria‘s quite sudden close.