Every time the gold standard becomes a topic of discussion in a history class, my heart moves into doubletime, I speed read beyond paragraphs on Keynesian economics into socio-political-cultural text, and I hide under the desk to avoid having to speak. It’s crowded under there. I join a rather sizable group of historians and students of history with little or no background in economics, business, or finance.
It’s our loss, as Liaquat Ahamad’s book, Lords of Finance: the Bankers Who Broke the World makes clear. Ahamad also makes it clear that economic experts in the post-World War I era were often like Sopwith Camel pilots flying F-16s. Control was an illusion. That seems to be the case in today’s global economic crisis.
I had planned on speed-reading the book, but it’s far too absorbing and I’m still not finished.
A few salient fragments
Given the current global economic crisis, we inevitably do look back to panics and depressions in history for parallels and lessons learned. Government intervention—or at least the degree of government intervention—remains a constant issue. The Keynesian-neoclassic divide. Saltwater vs freshwater?
Were there lessons learned? One year after the fall of Lehman Brothers, we are still …
There’s no dearth of financial news, analysis, and restrospective this week, calendared as the one-year anniversary of the financial crisis.
A little satirical side trip away from this week’s assigned reading, Lords of Finance—real blog post to follow. Of course, it’s not actually Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, but Will Forte doing the opening skit, Bank Stress Test on Saturday Night Live last May.
(Five-and-a-half minute clip, original air date May 2009, posted on Hulu, accessed September 12, 2009).
It seems a fair question. An amazing number of historical geographers (and historians interested in maps) begin books and articles with the basic question, "What is a map?" undoubtedly to clarify that it is a multi-faceted, interdisciplinary object: image, document, artifact, artwork, a product of history, art, geography, and science, and must be read and researched in multiple contexts. Those contexts, include (but are not limited to) mapmakers themselves, their patrons, authors, and sometimes, intended audience. Maps are not objective representations, but selective interpretive visualizations.
A second common question from historical geographers (not as strong a field in the United States as in Great Britain) is to ask why historians don’t use maps more as research tools and as texts intrinsic to historical publications. Atlases, it would seem, bridge the constraints which seem to exist between text-based historians and the artist, scientist, geographer, and art historian. Immense collaboration and interdisciplinary skill seem intrinsic to creating the effective thematic atlas.
The new issue that might promote either greater interdisciplinary integration or compartmentalization may well be technology: map creation requires technological expertise and specialization. What is the role of the gurus of GIS in comparison with cartographers using pre-GIS technology. Who provides …
The Library of Congress hasn’t always been friendly to the public-at-large. Well into the latter half of the twentieth century, institutional culture reflected its original purpose as a reference library for Senators, Representatives and their staffs, and directions and admonitions to researchers seeking access to its collections served to discourage frivolous bibliographic meandering. It was an exciting place to go, but not for the faint-hearted.
Thomas Jefferson intended the Library of Congress as a democratic institution, however. What that has meant, of course, has changed over time as the history of the Library of Congress demonstrates, but when historian James Billington became the thirteenth Librarian of Congress in 1987, the contemporary period of democratization began. Billington began programs to increase public access to Library collections.
The most recent foray into democratization is a project the Library blog has called My Friend Flickr: A Match Made in Photo Heaven. The rationale is explained in FAQs. It’s both an experiment in the implications of social tagging and a practical measure to help the Library gain more information about the content of its collection though public commentary and participation. The two initial collections (more than 3,000 photographs) on Flickr have no copyright restrictions and are …
The intersection of history and environmental geography is only one of many laudable qualities of Scott Reynolds Nelson’s work, Steel Drivin’ Man, John Henry: The Untold Story of an American Legend. In his narrative, geoforms have agency (to use a word that likely doesn’t appear in Nelson’s highly readable narrative), and to those who look closely, the history of our move to dominate natural surroundings is written on every landscape.
But this is one of Nelson’s anecdotes that had me laughing out loud from the end of a long line of automobiles waiting for emission inspections. Nelson was speeding toward West Virginia on his historical quest when he noticed a state trooper lying in wait. Pulling over on demand, Nelson tells the story:
When he walked over to my window I quickly blurted out, “I’m glad you stopped. I thought I was in Millboro, but I can’t find it from the signs.” He looked puzzled. “Millboro is just an old town with three or four families. Why would you want to go there, sir? I told him that I was a historian following the construction of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad and that convicts owned by the railroad had escaped from …