WWI & the German plot against horses; Protecting against English zombies; The enslaved people that (unwillingly) saved Georgetown University; Gorsuch & plagiarism; #SaveMercyStreet petition;


Check out that gas mask!

Lots of stories out there about the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into WWI, (including this debate about whether we should have been in the war—-put me down for a “no”), but the most unique one I’ve seen is this piece from NPR that discusses the role of horses and mules in the war. The United States sold untold thousands of the beasts-of-burden to the warring countries, shipping them out of Newport News, Virginia. This trade was so heavy that the Germans made many efforts to stop it by killing the animals, including a plot to poison them while awaiting shipment in Virginia. Damn the Kaiser!

The Walking Dead just ended their season (it was a weak one that took way too long to get where it was going, but that’s not a history story), which is perfect timing for this news: It seems that English researchers have unearthed a discovery they insist demonstrates that about 1,000 years ago people in North Yorkshire were afraid of a zombie outbreak. Yep.

I am just going to keep my opinions to myself on these controversial (within academic circles) opinions, but did you see that conservative historian Niall Ferguson has offered up some reasons for why he thinks there has been a decline in history majors and historical literacy? (Ok, I will give this opinion: I think he is partially right and partially wrong. Catch me sometime at the end of a bar and I will expound upon that).

In 1838, Georgetown University sold 278 enslaved people in order to finacially save the academic institution. The descendants of those that were sold recently met in a small Louisiana town where many of their ancestors had toiled after the sale. Prominent historians like Adam Rothman of Georgetown gave them more information about the history of their ancestors, and a discussion was held about reparations and the ways the university should honor those people that unwillingly played such a major role in the institution’s survival.

Lots of talk about plagiarism in the news again because of Gorsuch. Academics seem divided over whether or not he committed an egregious violation, but put me down on the side that insists they’d never let their students get away with what he did. The bigger problem these days is that students seem to have no clue what plagiarism actually is, (beyond generally knowing they shouldn’t use a direct quote without giving credit). Does this even get taught anymore in middle and high school? I wonder.

A petition has been created to save PBS’s Mercy Street (I’m going to have more to say soon on a higher profile site about why we need to save the show, so stay tuned), it has only gotten a few hundred signatures so far, so sign it and pass it along! #SaveMercyStreet.

And speaking of television, Underground‘s latest episode continued to move things in interesting directions, including a conversation between Williams Stills and Frederick Douglass concerning how publicity about the Underground Railroad simultaneously helped and hindered the abolitionist movement, a minstrel show that flips the normal script (unrealistically so, but in a way that powerfully forces today’s white audiences to consider the ways these shows shaped cultural perceptions of blacks), and an exploration of how some black women could use their sexuality as a means of resistance. Further, John Brown’s violent form of abolitionism also continues to be an interesting plot point. This season is still not reaching the heights of season one, but it can if it reels in the Cato storyline and turns back to  Harriet Tubman and Ernestine (which appears to be the case for next week).


3 thoughts on “WWI & the German plot against horses; Protecting against English zombies; The enslaved people that (unwillingly) saved Georgetown University; Gorsuch & plagiarism; #SaveMercyStreet petition;

  1. The implications of Feeguson’s opinion make me uncomfortable, but I have a hard time arguing against much of his reasoning (especially when it comes to historical literacy).
    Having heard a dire warning from almost every history professor at my alma mater against entering the field, it seems like the poor treatment of instructors by the university system and the lack of opportunities available for graduates caused by our economic situation are as much at play. No bar open at this time, but there’s my two cents…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Lauren! Yes, you are correct, at every step of the way, students who express a desire to study history have been warned that unless they want to coach a sport at a high school, they won’t find very many job opportunities. But that is largely a product of short-sightendness about the value of studying history beyond just getting a job in the history field (critical thinking skills, for example). Faced with a large decline in history majors, as well as attacks on the value of a liberal arts education, more and more history departments are making big efforts to help students understand that majoring in history prepares them for many different career fields. They’ve also turned to emphasizing and preparing students for the opportunities in public history, something I wish more graduate departments would do.
    Also note: the lack of opportunities for history graduates in college teaching stems less from our economic situation that it does the fact that colleges and universities increasingly rely on adjuncts because it is cheap labor. College enrollments have risen, tuitions have risen, and yet the number of adjuncts also continues to rise.

    Liked by 1 person

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