The 15th Military History Carnival has been posted at Cardinal Wolsey's This Day In History. This time around, I'd like to contrast two styles of blog conversation. The first is at Crooked Timber, on the differing memories of the Great War in America and Europe, and the bearing this may have on attitudes to war and peace: not only the post itself but the 170-comment long discussion thread, which features regular Airminded commenter Chris Williams. (See also the cross-post at John Quiggin's own blog, and some comments at Trench Fever.) It's a good example of somebody posting some interesting ideas which resulted in a thorough discussion (though not without its frustrations, and it's a shame that Crooked Timber threads seem to close after such a short time). But while intense, it's pretty localised in time and blog-space.
Compare this with the reaction to a post (which had nothing to do with military history and so wasn't in the Carnival) at Mercurius Rusticus attacking the role and influence of women in the history profession, and gender history in general. The post has now been taken down (Ralph Luker quotes some of it), apparently permanently, though it was up and down a couple of times before that, and for a while the whole blog was closed to all but invited readers. (Another post, quite innocuous as far as I could see, was taken down after being mentioned in a comment at Cliopatria.) Mercurius Rusticus himself (and presumably he's a he) seems uninterested in discussing or defending what he's said in any sensible way: his comments on the matter to date have all been written in the style of a 17th-century scholar, or so I take it. Which is amusing enough but, unless this is an accepted style of discourse amongst early modern historians, seems pretty disrespectful to his interlocutors. As is his most recent post.
But the thing is that this hostility to debate doesn't matter too much, because there are plenty of other places for people to respond, comment, point and laugh. The ones that have come across my feed reader include: Cliopatria (here, here and here), Tenured Radical (here and here), Historiann, Early Modern Notes, Investigations of a Dog, Europe Endless, and Progressive Historians. Mercurius Rusticus isn't doing himself any favours with his evasiveness, but in any event the historioblogosphere is doing a good job of analysing the issue without his further input.
My own attitude is pretty much the same as it was in a somewhat-different context two years ago:
I would have thought that anything that happened in the past is a ‘worthwhile’ subject for study by historians. Anything!
If gender history isn't your thing (and I've already confessed that it's not an approach that I often adopt myself) then just don't do it. I simply don't get why any historian would be offended by the fact that other historians choose to do things differently to themselves — let alone feel the need to attack them for it. History is such a vast subject that we need to illuminate it from as many angles as possible in order to approach a true understanding of it.
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