Suggestions of a dog…

February 13, 2007

Gavin Robinson at Investigations of a Dog has floated the idea of a Military History Carnival. Gavin’s proposal is broad ranging, well thought out, and deserves support from all history bloggers as well as the forty odd who make up Clio’s military history blogroll. Pop over and contribute to the discussion.
Cross posted at Cliopatria


Review of the autumn semester

February 12, 2007

A belated review, since it took me a while to receive and analyse the student data.
Undergraduate – delivered two new lectures, one on the Second World War, and one on Affluence and Social and Cultural Change for our British History since 1945 1st year course. I thought I did a better job on the second than the first – there was simply too much to fit in. The course organiser mentioned in his feedback that some students commented that lecturers spoke to quickly: I’m pretty sure that was me. I had tried to distil the war years down to 4 key themes. I think that next year, I might try to work out what the two big things the undergraduates need to know for the rest of the course are, and plug away at those. Since it’s the first lecture they have here, it perhaps needs to be easier to access (not least because of the likely hangover:sobriety ratio).
Britain in the Second World War course: very pleased with the course redesign, which I think will give the students a better sense of developing themes as they go through. The ‘themes essays’ which I introduced instead of course logs have worked really well: rather than the ‘parish meeting minutes’ which tended to be submitted before, students have really thought about links between seminars. Still some problems with the review essays, however – I need to spend more time making sure that students understand the requirements next time it’s taught. I haven’t been fully satisfied with the WebCT provision either – it’s still going to take another iteration of the course to fully integrate the online material with the taught seminars.
Masters: museum visits worked well I thought, but the Victors to Victims course needs to be revised before I teach it next year. At the moment, I feel as if it runs out of steam as it goes on. At the moment it’s taught in two chronological sections – one on the representation of each world war. It might be better if I did a couple of weeks at the beginning setting a framework, then carried the themes through both world wars.

Academic quality: appearance and reality

February 12, 2007

The Guardian’s Ben Goldacre gets stuck in to ‘no longer Dr’ Gillian McKeith. I sometimes find Goldacre’s writing in the Grauniad rather shrill, but in this longer piece he gives a great explanation for his anger and a definition of ‘referenciness’ worthy of Stephen Colbert. The dangers Goldacre identifies in those who seek to give the appearance of academic research without its substance apply across all fields.
(Cross posted at Cliopatria)

Family memories of the first Blitz

February 5, 2007

Thanks to Chris Williams for the link to the discussion site for the Timewatch programme on the First Blitz. Really interesting to see how Zeppelin raiding has been remembered by families – by far the bulk of the posts there. It might be an interesting example of an aspect of the war which otherwise hasn’t been incorporated into the mainstream ‘memory’ has been preserved. My late grandfather used to claim to remember seeing a Zeppelin being shot down. He thought it was the one downed by William Leefe-Robinson. I never knew whether he’d concocted it from family discussions: he would have been only four, although from where he lived in Essex he might have seen the airship come down in Hertfordshire. Whenever he mentioned it, he always talked about the pub (now a Beefeater eatery) named after Leefe-Robinson, which is in Middlesex – so I sometimes wondered whether a trip past that had been the origin of the whole story.

Protect and survive

February 5, 2007

What would Britain’s leaders have done in the event of thermonuclear war? Hightailed it to deep protection – have a look at this fascinating Guardian article on the Corsham bunker, drawing extensively on the work of my colleague Prof Peter Hennessy. Of course, if they’d relied on Britain’s railway network to get them there (one of the reasons for choosing Corsham was the rail link to London) they’d have ended up stuck somewhere outside Reading, owing to fallout on the line.