Tag Archives: France

The End of (French) History

As a historian I like to think that I’m comfortable with the idea of fields dying. Maybe they’re reborn and live to fight another day (like diplomatic history, or so we all keep hearing), and maybe they never really die at all (like quantitative history, safely entrenched at Paris 1-Sorbonne).

But what about the old workhorse geographic fields like, say, French history?1 Unless you are Natalie Davis, being a French historian over the last five decades or more probably meant that you, well, went to France to do your research. And why did you go? You told your department chair and your grant funders and your colleagues that you had to get to the archives and the libraries, of course. But let’s be honest here: French historians don’t go to France to get to the documents. Instead we wed ourselves to documents that just so happen to be found only in France, “forcing” us to go there, usually when the weather there is super great, or at least super crappy at home. That’s why we became French historians in the first place. There are a few exceptions to this rule: the handful of self-loathing sad sacks we all know who hate wine and cheese and cigarettes, but this is no time to be cruel. Continue reading

  1. I’m focusing on France, of course, because it’s what I know. That said, I don’t see any compelling reason why the argument that follows couldn’t apply to any number of national or transnational areas of inquiry. []

Test Your Digital Humanities Knowledge

I met up with my French colleague Marin Dacos today while he was in the middle of giving an exam on digital publishing to his humanities master’s students. While many U.S. graduate students (and professors) would balk at such a “factual” exam, I suspect that they would have a very tough time getting through it unscathed.1

How would you or your students fare with a test like this? I’ve translated the questions into English. You have ninety minutes. Go!

Basic questions and definitions (13 points)

  1. In Wikipedia, what do “Diff” and “Edit war” mean?
  2. Name the XML formats useful for electronic publishing and specify their particularities.
  3. How does PageRank work? What are the advantages of this system? What are its drawbacks?
  4. Who is Tim Berners-Lee? What is the W3C?
  5. What is metadata? What is Dublin Core?
  6. What is DRM? What are its advantages and disadvantages?
  7. What is single source publishing?
  8. What is the difference between the PDF and EPUB formats?
  9. What is Zotero? What does it do?
  10. What is a DOI? What is name resolution?
  11. What is interoperability? What is OAI-PMH? What are the main verbs of OAI-PMH and what do they do?
  12. What is the attention economy?
  13. What is the Creative Commons License? What is its purpose?

Synthesis (7 points)

  1. Electronic publishing falls into three categories. For each type of electronic publishing, provide a definition, at least one representative example, its main technical characteristics, its principal qualities, and its major faults.
  2. The publishing industry is searching for an economic model of electronic publication. Present the different strategies currently under development (name, basic description, example, advantages, disadvantages)
  1. Except for #9. Everyone can answer that one. []

Vietnamese War Dead

Today is Veterans Day in the United States, Remembrance (or “Poppy”) Day in Commonwealth nations, and le Jour du Souvenir in France. In Vietnam, it’s not celebrated at all, but that wasn’t always the case.

Unlike the United States’ vaguely-defined Veterans’ Day, in the places where the holiday is elsewhere celebrated it remains rooted in the specificity of the Great War, even as those memories to be recalled have virtually receded beyond the limits of the human lifespan. In France and elsewhere in Europe it’s the dead in particular that are the focus of the day’s attention, and one need not visit in November to witness its significance in historical memory. Continue reading