Tag Archives: meme

If Dr No can think then, dammit, so can I

Cover of Plow Science

Dr No at Acadamnit had a moment of blogular navel-gazing a short while back and encouraged others to join in, and being as I rather enjoy Acadamnit and also have something of a shortage of material just now, I figured I’d bite and do some trumpeting of this blog’s dubious moments of glory. Not least, I thought I owed Dr No some kind of penance for not realising the above image was their own work. So then, the categories.

  • Most Liked Post (by me)
    This is quite tricky. I enjoy most of my writing, but I think if I have to pick one it would be this one. It was occasioned by the publication, without warning, proofs or any chance to update the content, of what might have been my first paper had the relevant journal not sat on it for literally eight years. And they spelt my name wrong, but a friend pointed out that at least that offered the chance of writing a rebuttal to myself. It seemed like too much fun not to try…
  • Most Liked Post (by readers, based on comments or hits)
    As has been complained about before, hits don’t really tell me what they should, because a couple of things I wrote seem to get clobbered by automated queries and image searches to the extent that I really can’t tell if they’re being read or not, but they far exceed anything else on hit count. It’s a pity, because I was really quite proud of the former of them, it was definitely the sort of writing I’d like to produce more often. After them, top post by hits is my little First Crusaders essay, which is good but not really a blog post, and after that we’re into the porn searches (that link goes to me complaining about it, not an example…). Comments isn’t a perfect metric either, because of course I try to reply to everyone, so I make the numbers myself in part, but since no better metric comes to mind, somewhat to my surprise the most commented post so far is this one.
  • Most Memorable Post
    I think it might, for me at least, be this one. This was the first time I’d really tried to set out my stall as someone who could explain scientific work to historians, and I was really proud of the dialogue that developed, and especially that I was just about humble enough to learn from the kind attempts of the authors of the study in question to educate me about maths. I was fairly pleased with having done as well as I had, and felt like I’d done something actually impressive. I don’t know how true that now is, but it sticks.
  • Post Most Indicative of Your Blog Identity?
    I admit that I’m not sure how this one was meant to be read. I think it’s a “does my real-life identity look big in this?” question, but of course whereas Dr No is secretly hidden in an ivory tower defended with sarcasm, cheerleaders and Tesla coils, I never kept my identity secret in the first place. So I guess it’s the one where my presentation as a serious adult broke down most, and that is pretty obviously this one and will, I hope, ever remain so.
  • Most Humorous Post
    Damn, that’s the same one isn’t it? Well, in that case, have a runner-up. This isn’t even mine, really, and the person who let me borrow it was only quoting a medieval source anyway, but it’s still true dammit.
  • Most Regrettable Post?
    This is, to an extent, still to be settled: one day one of my many rants will come back and bite me, and I have many times pulled something back from the brink, and in one case beyond it, because of thinking how I’d deal with meeting its target after they’d found out I wrote that about them. However, there’s still no problem deciding which one I have dithered over most, and though it remains up now I do often wonder whether I ever should have given this much away about myself, especially given how my life subsequently changed to make it largely irrelevant. If that’s a dead link, I chickened out.
  • Most Misunderstood Post
    That’s probably one of the same ones again, but in terms of one where I genuinely had to work hard to avoid a misunderstanding that would have been regrettable, I guess it’s this one.
  • Most Satisfying to Write Post?
    Oh, this one, no contest. I may burn in Hell for it, but it was such a relief to find I could actually articulate the counter-argument rather than just froth uselessly. Fighting language with language, yeah, etc.
  • Most Likely To Never Be Posted Post?
    Well, there have been a bunch of these, and one of the great advantages of the backlog with which this blog usually runs is that if something seems like a bad idea after a week, it’s probably still not reached the ether so I can delete it. But because I do delete the rejects, I can’t remember what they were. More rants, obviously. However, there is a post you can’t see which has been sitting in my drafts folder since a particularly disillusioned point back in August this year. I was out of material and motivation both, the page view figures were slowly but determinedly declining and I was about to say that the blog was going on hold till I felt like a human being with something to contribute to the world again. Within about a week I had some six drafts part-written because I started reading again and suddenly found stuff out, and within a fortnight one of them had been linked by a big blog in the USA and given this little Corner its highest-ever view figures, so I decided that really, a hiatus wasn’t necessary or even likely, and so it has proven. But that draft is still there, containing all my misgivings about blogging, and I hope it’ll never be wanted.
  • Most Important Post?
    Well, it’s a bit cheeky to suggest that anything here is important, but if I have to pick one then I’m going to pick two, a pair that long-term readers will remember because by this time I actually had an audience: a pair of arguments about what historians are actually for in social terms and how we can meet that need.
  • Most *Adjective of Your Choice* Post?
    Well, there’s a bunch I’d like to draw people’s attention to because they show me being properly academic with actual sources and stuff, so I guess the adjective of my choice is “demonstratively scholarly”, which I realise, yes, is far from being one word, let’s move on. Of such posts here the crown is indubitably this one. That, there, is what I want to do with my life, if anyone will let me.

So there you have it. Now, this may look to you like a meme, but it is not, because there was no tagging involved; I just volunteered out of vanity. I wouldn’t want to stop anyone else picking up the idea but there is absolutely no obligation implied by this post. OK? Though I do have one obligation left to discharge: in the comment where I promised Dr No a response, I also promised them an image, an image which struck me on seeing its source as the perfect summary of their blog: so here it is. If you click through you will doubtless see what I mean…

Contains intelligent and well-chosen profanity

Meme-tag: Count Borrell II

Magistra has tentatively tagged me in a meme that she has mutated (which, given how meme theory is supposed to work, is I guess fair enough!) and although I share her discomfort with the chain-letter aspect, I’m never averse to having an excuse to trot out some stuff about my specialism. I can also take some joy in gratifying a recent websearcher whose visit here may have been a little unsatisfying. The rules of the meme, as given by Magistra, were:

  1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
  2. Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.
  3. My variant is that rather than say 7 random/weird things about yourself, say them about a historical figure of your choice. (Let’s be generous, semi-historical, for all those interested in more or less mythical figures).

  4. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
  5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Well, I can’t be having with the tagging. Magistra’s already chosen some good ones and I don’t feel I could appeal to people I only know through the blog to jump through a meme hoop for me. I will only say that I expect Derek the Ænglican, Michelle of Heavenfield, Sæsferd of Antiquarian’s Attic and Larry Swain might all come up with interesting things, especially since I’m adopting Magistra’s mutation. Seven odd things about myself? If I tried that here I’d very much fear for my employment chances should any academics read it, or so I like to imagine.

A long time ago in an IHR seminar Jinty Nelson got us to go round the table introducing ourselves and our subjects. John Gillingham, in so doing, concluded with the words, “and my hero’s Richard the Lionheart”. So when it came to me I was moved to imitate with “and my hero’s Count Borrell II of Barcelona”. But no-one knows who he was and occasionally I try and change this. Here then once more…

Modern equestrian statue of Count Borrell II at Cardona

He’s not actually my hero, if only because although his career’s fascinating, it’s far from being an unmixed success, but he’s certainly my main historical figure. He started operating as Count of Barcelona under his father Marquis Sunyer in 945, and succeeded to his father’s three counties of Barcelona, Girona and Osona, basically the south-west of old Catalonia, along with his brother in 947 when Sunyer retired to La Grasse to become a monk. Later that year his uncle Sunifred II of Urgell allowed him to inherit Urgell too, because Sunifred’s son, also called Borrell, had died and Sunifred now had no heirs. He ruled until 993, active till the last, and oversaw the beginning of Catalonia’s facing-up to the growing social change as the economy began to boom around the year 1000. He was an important man and he’s unusually well-evidenced, about 150 charters featuring him in some way or other.

So seven odd things about Borrell! I’m not footnoting these, because they mostly need long arguments; some day, children, there will be a book. I promise you. Anyway:

  1. Although he was titular count of Barcelona, there’s almost no sign of him doing anything there until his brother Miró died in 966 leaving Borrell as sole ruler in their three counties.
  2. He seems to have established a school for judges and recruited especially learned clerics as tame court jurists, presumably as part of a PR exercise for the quality of his own justice. These judges have since become a misleading model for what all Catalan or Meridional judges are supposed to be like, and I hope to have a paper done refuting this some time soon.
  3. They say no man can serve two masters but Borrell was a supplicant at the courts in both Córdoba and West Francia as occasion demanded.
  4. He got on really well with his cousin Miró, who was count of Besalú and also Bishop of Girona, and seems to have effectively run Girona for Borrell; but maybe that’s because Miró and his brothers kicked Borrell’s behind in battle at some point around 957…
  5. We only know of him going to war one other time, in 985 and he got his behind kicked then too, by al-Mansur who went on to sack Barcelona thereby kick-starting Catalan historiography according to Michel Zimmermann.
  6. In 985 one of the places that got hit was the nunnery of Sant Pere de les Puelles, which was Borrell’s and his dad’s foundation but where he’d probably been pressured into making one of his major magnates’ daughters abbess in exchange for getting a castle clawed back from a monastery that magnate had founded and given to Rome; but that abbess was carried off in 985 so Borrell got to emplace his daughter in the end. Convenient!
  7. He went to Rome in 970 and tried to get his pet bishop made an archbishop; and although he very likely failed, he has managed to fool all historians since then that he succeeded, all except me! me! (unless I’m wrong).

I think all of these things are odd enough to make up big chunks of the second book, anyway, but maybe I need to write the current book first… So there you go, web-searcher, Borrell II of Barcelona for you. For more detail and references, until that first book comes out, I really should get my thesis on the web which would allow you easily to get at the references there (which are at J. Jarrett, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, Ph.D. thesis, University of London 2005, pp. 221-253, esp. 221-225).