Initially, I had little idea of where to start or what direction to follow when writing my final paper. So to begin to formulate my ideas, I reviewed my paper proposal as well as my lit review. Then I just started putting words on paper. I’d reread it every so often, and after half an hour, I’d gained a sense of what I was arguing and what I needed to write about. After that, I edited my horrible confusing first attempts, often doing away with whole ideas. Now that I think I have some idea, I can begin writing a first draft. I’ll probably send the whole thing through several revisions, moving my words from document to document, leaving a trail of drafts behind me. I do this because I’m constantly afraid I’ll change something I actually wanted to keep, so instead, I save stages of my work, and allow myself the freedom of deleting and reformatting huge chunks in a brand new space.
One of the disadvantages to writing this way is that I tend to become much wordier than necessary and I end up with more content in one section than I probably needed. Sometimes my focus on one section leaves me with less analysis on other sections. I’m very much in favor of teachers looking over my drafts because it helps me streamline my ideas. My first few drafts allow me to say everything I think necessary, and my second few take into account my teacher’s instructions and suggestions for focusing my topic, or fleshing out necessary points. On the whole, I like writing end of the year papers, especially when I’ve already done so much background work. Having done the primary source analysis and the lit review, I feel quite prepared to discuss the importance of beards to early modern England’s notion of masculinity with particular attention to As You Like It. Formerly, that subject sounded quite difficult and unattainable, but I’m very excited about it now.
I understand the importance of properly citing things, truly I do. I wouldn’t want to inadvertently take someone else’s ideas and present them as my own. But that doesn’t mean I think that the strictures surrounding citations are always helpful. In fact, I find them incredibly reductive more often than not. While doing the citation worksheet, I fully realized how vast and nebulous the world of citation can be. While it’s so god awfully important to cite sources in the one correct way, the massive tomb that is the The Chicago Manual of style has yet to find a way to cite advertisements? In all this time that people have been using advertisements to back up or illustrate their points, it hasn’t gotten there? Or online archives? It seems to me that it would be helpful to either bring Chicago Style citations up to date, or allow people to cite things as they liked. I found myself wishing to include more information on the Bela Lugosi YouTube clip entry because I thought there were some helpful things they chose to leave out. And while a 1:1 ratio of historians and possible citation styles sounds like a recipe for disaster, I really find myself quite tired of the pitfalls of proper citations when the focus becomes style over content. I think the real reason I get so annoyed by the vagaries of citing sources is that I don’t want to do it wrong. I don’t want to be accused of being lazy or taking someone else’s ideas because I improperly cited their work. And if there are so many instances where judgement calls are necessary, it just seems like there are a lot of ways to mess the whole thing up.
I find that there is really very little about me online. A few other people share my first and last name, but I can be found on a graduation roster and my facebook page comes up. I was also surprised to discover that when I added all the parts of my name, which includes my mother’s last name, there was less and less to be found of me. I suppose this gives me the opportunity to craft my digital identity more than most people. If I should so choose, I can use my full name, and attach to it whatever would better myself in the eyes of employers. It has the advantage of having nothing negative or disadvantageous stuck to it already. This website is one format where I have the potential to do so, but there are others I’m sure I’ll utilize after I graduate. The idea of having to monitor your digital identity is interesting in that it shows how accessible information is. While we may be overjoyed at the digitization of archives, but such advances also bring along the hindrance of having to be careful and conscious of our online presence.
Online archives and collections of primary sources have many uses. Often times they compile mass quantities of pertinent primary sources on a subject, a group of people, or from a certain place in time. They allow for incredibly easy access to both facsimiles more readable text versions. By thinning out the options and then making them available to people who wouldn’t otherwise have them, they provide a wonderful service. But they only present the sources others have deemed to be the most important ones out of the abyss of “useless” documents sitting in archives. In such a light, I would view these collections as more important to casual observers or students working on papers, rather than professionals wishing to unearth the truths of the lives of the women who worked the stockyards of Chicago in the the 30’s, or say, the collected papers of Lucretia Mott.
Online tools also allow for faster transmission of ideas. For example, a comment on this post, shows up faster than a published response to a paper in a peer reviewed journal. But a post such as mine has the disadvantage of not being peer reviewed or highly technical. It is a platform, perhaps, or a base upon which to build, but it is not very much more. So digital tools have their uses, but not all thoroughly ingrained into professional history.
I think these more recent fields thoroughly enrich and complicate our understanding of history as a whole. We no longer look at history as a simple, definitive, clear cut narrative. We view it as a naturally evolving study filled with complexities and demanding collaboration. This collaborations comes from within traditional studies of history, but also from “outsiders” such as sociologists, archaeologists, geographers, and the like. That being said, such interactions can allow for evasions. Too much environmental history leads to people disregarding human agency, while an over dependence on traditional narrative history tends to disregard environmental factors. Branches of history that become too specific don’t always focus on the overall narrative as well as they ought to. I think all these specific forms of history just makes history more interesting. I can understand that it can bog down the mind and make it difficult to cut to the chase of an event, but it fills in our understanding in very interesting ways.
I have always found certain aspects of the traditional fields interesting. I loved learning about troop movements and battle plans when I was younger, but I have always found history most interesting and vivid where military, political, and economic history intersect with social history. Battles are all well and good but when you hear the first hand accounts from diaries or when you read letters home or when you know the folkways of camps they become much more so. I am always baffled at this wish to divide up history into neat little compartments, when in truth, that can be done with very little ease. As we have looked into each traditional branch of history, it has been repeated over and over again that they are still worth studying because they had an effect on the people of their time. I think this undeniable, but I also find I don’t always understand the people of the time. Social history, which I never thought so lacking in its discussion of the effects of wars or treaties, bridges my gap in connecting people to events. I think the genres of history have been complicated because it is necessary to a thorough understanding of the time.
I immediately noticed that they were coming from incredibly different places, yet they each had agendas. Jennings’s was to correct myths and present a new, not necessarily flattering, view of the events. And Parkman’s was to validate our claim’s to the land and the spirit of manifest destiny.
Parkman himself seemed to catch the desire to roam West, with his trip along the Oregon trail. He lived through times of intense change for American society. From the height of the antebellum South, to the destruction of a Civil War, to the frustration of Reconstruction, and the dawning imperialism of America. As such, it is not surprising that his histories are focused on glorifying American achievements and continual push for progress. His stories’ feel good narrative are born out of a desire to re-animate a past which seems almost mythic in its proportions.
Jennings writes with an unapologetic anger. He lays waste to the idea of disinterested Colonial people seeking freedom, cannot be bothered to hear of the heroism of the British, he has little patience with even the French, and does not entirely excuse the Indians for their own war cruelties. Yet he vindicates, if not the steady pacifism of the Quakers, at least their willingness to attempt to attain a peace with the Native Americans. As the New York Times article said, the Vietnam War profoundly affected him, and this exoneration (to the point of denouncing other more militant historians) is ample proof of his lens. I think, though, that this is a bias he never tries to hide. He outlines the historiography of the conflict very clearly, and confronts the biases he sees in other’s works, but does not pretend his own work is devoid of his own viewpoint.