Archive for September, 2010

Pue’s index

29 September 2010

By Juliana Adelman

In honor of the students now flooding back to Irish universities and the forthcoming budget controversies, I thought I would do a little history maths.  I will not rule out the possibility that I forgot to carry a ‘1’ somewhere, so if you spot an error please tell me and I will correct it.  In case you are unfamiliar with Harper’s Index, from which this idea is lifted, it is a list of statistics published by that literary magazine which juxtaposes surprising facts.  I have not tried to be nearly so clever.

Number of English language books published in 2009 with ‘history’ as the subject in the British Library online catalogue: 9770

Percentage increase from 1959: +2042.5%

Percentage decrease from 1999: -47.6%

Number of visitors to the National Archives of Ireland reading room in 1971: 1,754

Number in 1996 and 2006, respectively: 20,155; 16,455

Percentage of the annual budget of the National Library of Ireland spent on collections in 2008: 20.57%

Percentage of the annual budget of the British Library spent on ‘growing and managing’ collections in 2008: 50.5%

Number of third level students in all institutions funded by the HEA in the Republic of Ireland in 1988/9: 60,747

Number of third level students in all institutions funded by the HEA in the Republic of Ireland in 2003/4: 133,887

Number of part and full time students receiving a degree in ‘History and archaeology’ at an Irish university in 2003/4: 156*

Number in 2008/9: 365*

Number of PhDs in ‘History and archaeology’ awarded in Ireland 2008/9: 48

PhDs in ‘History and archaeology’ awarded to men and women, respectively: 30, 18

Undergrad degrees in ‘History and archaeology’ awarded to men and women, respectively: 177, 188*

Sources: British Library online catalogue, National Archives of Ireland report of the director for 2006, National Library of Ireland financial statement for 2008, British Library financial report for 2008, Higher Education Authority of Ireland statistics. *These stats do not seem to include NUIG as their combined arts degrees are not separated out by subject in the tables.

It’s the little things

27 September 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

It was around this time last week. I was sitting at a desk in the OECD archives in Paris while the librarian showed me how to use Powerfilm, an unimaginably useful software programme that prints images from microfiche directly to pdf for the reader to take away and read at his/her leisure. Let me pause and run that by you again. Documents in the OECD are stored on microfiche, microfilm, or, in the case of more recent material, on pdf, so all that’s needed is to find the pages you want, click, save to a memory stick, and continue on your way. That means no paper print-outs, no photocopying costs, no hoping your digital photographs have come out ok when you get home, no more multiple packets of AA batteries for the same.

I know what you’re thinking: brilliant, and why can’t we have one of those. Yet in the midst of my stunned elation at saving time spent indoors when it was 24 degrees and, well, Paris outside, it did sow the germ of a question for this post: just how much has technology changed the way history is researched and written in the last two decades? Read More

Top five: historical fiction

24 September 2010

Contributed by Patrick Walsh

That’s wrong! Oh God she was not like that! That dress is so anachronistic! Grr they wouldn’t have had that then! Oh my God it was so more complex than that! How many times have we as historians made these or similar exclamations while watching “historical” films or reading “historical” fiction? It probably runs into the hundreds each; historians are after all prematurely cranky old men and women. However, we are usually rather harsh critics; for every Alexander there is a Lives of Others, for every The Tudors there is a Wolf Hall. The latter novel; by Hilary Mantel, which I am currently immersed in, is every bit as good as its legions of fans claim, both an excellent read and also a reasonably accurate portrayal of a very complex period in English history. It has given me a new appreciation and insight into Henry VIII’s England, and the most famous divorce in history. It has also got me thinking about historical fiction, both the good and the bad, just as there is some very good…there is some very bad! What follows is very much a personal selection, including some of the books that have stuck with me, and indeed have introduced me to histories and cultures I would never have found otherwise. Read More

Cultural Memory – A Fickle Beast

23 September 2010

By Christina Morin

On a trip to the west of Ireland a few weeks ago, I decided to make a bit of a pilgrimage to an unusual spot – the village of Loughrea, Co. Galway. Although a pretty place, Loughrea is not a popular tourist stopover, but, then again, the sight I was seeking wasn’t the usual tourist attraction either. In fact, I was looking for the parish church to which the Anglo-Irish writer and clergyman, Charles Robert Maturin (1780-1824), was first sent after being ordained as a Church of Ireland minister in 1803. Given the size of Loughrea, my mission wasn’t that difficult to complete, but imagine my dismay when, arriving at the parish church (on Church Street, of course), I was informed by a placard that the church had been constructed in 1821 – much too late for Maturin, who returned to Dublin in 1806 to assume the position of curate at St. Peter’s Church in Aungier Street (one he would maintain until his death in 1824). According to my husband, who patiently accompanied me on my pilgrimage, my face fell, and I descended into a state of morose disappointment. Until, that is, I discovered another placard only steps away stating that the current building – no longer a church but a city library – had, in fact, replaced an earlier building. The placard also happened briefly to note that Maturin had served there. Success!!

I took pictures of the church and the placard, for posterity’s sake, and the following week continued my investigation into the sights of Maturin’s life. In a country in which writers are revered, remembered, and celebrated on a regular basis, I hoped to find some preservation of Maturin’s cultural memory. Thomas Moore (1779-1852), for instance, has an annual festival devoted to him, Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74) an annual summer school, and Edmund Burke was lauded last year with an exhibition at TCD marking the 260th anniversary of his graduation. Maturin, however, seems to have slipped from the realm of cultural memory altogether. Not only has the 230th anniversary of his birth this year passed all notice, but the principal sights of his life have also been destroyed. The church in Loughrea is gone, as is the house he occupied in Dublin – it was torn down to make room for the expansion of The Royal College of Surgeons. St. Peter’s also shut its doors for good in the late twentieth century, and in its place now stands a popular youth hostel. Read more

Turning your research into published articles

22 September 2010

Contributed by Eoin Magennis

The pressure-cooker world of academia now has two Holy Grails. The monograph has been dealt with by Pue’s before. The other, an article in a peer-reviewed journal, is what I’ve been asked to write about – from the editor’s point of view.

The first thing to say is an obvious point – writing briefly about the topic of your choice is harder than to cover 100 pages on it. Just because this is obvious does not mean that people pay heed. In my five years’ experience of editing Eighteenth-Century Ireland, there is nothing more off-putting than the over-long submission. It won’t mean automatic rejection but if you can’t say what it is you want to say within 10,000 words (including notes) then you are likely to need to do a lot more work.

A second point to make is that articles published today are not what they once were. This is not a case of casting a fond eye back to a golden age of well-crafted articles. Indeed if you go back through old journals you will see how many articles were poorly written, badly argued or both. That said, theses now lend themselves better to extracting articles than they once did, when narrative was more important. Read More

Hindsight, it’s a wonderful thing

21 September 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

‘Governments, consultancies and investment banks rushed to hire economists, who were thought to possess vital skills and information. Historians, by contrast, were treated as mere entertainers and storytellers. They were archive-grubbers, lacking in scientific method – good on television, but useless with a PowerPoint and no help in government or the boardroom.’

A tad simplistic, a little provocative, Gideon Rachman’s comments in the Financial Times on the difference between historians and economists – he’s on ‘our’ side – have stuck in my brain. And not just because of the conversation they sparked in that august journal and across the blogosphere.

About a week ago, I gave a paper at a symposium organised by the Development Studies Association Ireland, the lone historian among a cohort of social scientists, economists, aid workers, natural scientists, aid officials and bureaucrats. Great company and a great audience to test some of the theories of my current project – the history of Irish foreign aid, in 15 short minutes. But I could see it in their eyes, and I could hear it in the question of one audience member: yes, this is all very well and a nice little story too, but what does it tell us about aid giving in the recessionary climate of 2010?

Well, quite a lot actually, I replied. But just what is not the point of this post. Or, rather, it is. Read More

At loose ends

19 September 2010

By Juliana Adelman

A friend of mine has just finished the manuscript to her first book.  Last week, as deadline panic set in and she tried to decide how much further revision was both necessary and feasible, she made an observation that struck me: historians pay more attention to introductions than conclusions.  She was worried about her conclusion but felt she had less advice and experience to fall back on as to how to shape it.  I tried to think of a history book with a strikingly good conclusion.  A brief recourse to my bookshelf seemed to prove my friend’s point: many of the books didn’t have a conclusion at all.  Several of them were fewer than five pages in length.  Does the type of introduction historians prefer obviate a conclusion?  Or do we go in like a lion and then, by acknowledging alternative interpretations, out like a lamb?  Is narrative so passé that conclusions are rendered impossible?

I tend to think that an introduction and a conclusion do two different things.  The introduction tries to catch the reader’s attention, it says ‘You should read this book and if you do you will discover…’.  The conclusion doesn’t just say ‘Since you read this book you now know…’. A good conclusion gives you something more than a summary.  But what?  Two undergraduate writing websites, from Dartmouth College and University of North Carolina, offered useful if not fully satisfying answers. Read More

Pue’s Picks for Culture Night 2010

17 September 2010

If you are not familiar with Culture Night– this year Friday the 24th of September- where have you been? This is a night when galleries, museums, libraries, theatres and cultural venues open their doors late and f or free to encourage people to familiarize themselves with the culture on their doorstep. In this attempt to draw people in, and with the limited time of just one evening- these institutions pull out all the stops (and even artifacts from museums for people to touch and hold) to get the public’s attention. This is a fantastic initiative and it is expanding rapidly. This year 20 towns and cities throughout Ireland are celebrating Culture Night. This is one of my favourite times of the year- with just an evening so there is such a rush as people dash round and try to see as much as they can of the music, performances and exhibitions but there is also the fantastic atmosphere to soak up. At Pue’s we thought we would share our plans for Culture Night with you- Lisa Marie. Read More

Review: From Parnell to Paisley

15 September 2010

Contributed by Brian Hanley

When John Bruton was Taoiseach he famously placed a portrait of John Redmond in his office reinforcing the notion that Fine Gael were the modern heirs of the Irish Parliamentary Party tradition. Bruton’s gushing tribute to the visiting Prince Charles in 1995 further seemed to confirm the view that ‘Redmondism’ was essentially pro-British. Whatever about Bruton’s personal royalist tendencies, there are many for whom the ‘constitutional’ Home Rule tradition represents a moderate, peaceful road to self-government-particularly when contrasted with Irish nationalism after 1916. The reality, as several of the best essays in this collection illiustrate, was rather different. The book contains eleven studies, of subjects as diverse as the funding of Charles Stewart Parnell’s movement (and more research on the funding of Irish political movements would be very welcome) to Fianna Fáil’s handling of the IRA in the 1940s and the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland during the 1960s. While some of the authors have already produced distingushed work, most, encouragingly, are new scholars. Read more

Review: Release of full length Metropolis at the IFI

14 September 2010

By Lisa Marie Griffith

On Saturday I went to the IFI to see the full length version of Metropolis. This is a film that I have had on the ‘to do’ list for a very long time. Metropolis is one of those landmarks in the history of film- you may never see the film but you can not avoid it. The art work, sets and costumes from the film have permeated modern culture and our consciences. While the artwork is undoubedtly striking, the greatest impact which the film has had is on the world of science fiction and film itself. There are a whole host of films that are indebted to Metropolis, both visually and ideologically.  To highlight the impact which the film and film-maker Fritz Lang, had on cinema the IFI are running two seasons this month- a ‘Fritz Lang’ season which runs 4th-19th of September and are showing a series of films which owes a debt to Fritz’s masterpiece under the title ‘After Meropolis’ which includes Things to come, Alphaville, Dr. Strangelove, Dark City,The Matrix and Brazil. After viewing the film you begin to understand how far-reaching the film has been, however, Blade-Runner, Star Wars and The Terminator are just some films which owe a very obvious debt, both in plot and artistically, to the film.

The history of the film’s re-release is quite remarkable in itself. Read more