Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A Promise to Start Keeping

In my entry for January 6 I more or less promised to start posting at least two or three times a week. It didn't quite register with me that this was Winter Quarter, which here, as at many university departments, is an unusually hectic time. To the usual jobs of teaching and research are added the evaluation of applications for graduate study and the evaluation of candidates for various faculty positions, not just in this department but frequently in others; e.g., Comparative Studies.

On the graduate application front: I have so far read through about sixty-five graduate applications in military history and early American history. The military historians met yesterday to discuss the applicants we'd like to put forward to the graduate studies committee. The early Americanists will meet on Friday. By Monday we have to prepare and submit supporting arguments for each applicant we nominate for admission and funding. I know I'm writing up two for the military field and probably more for the early American field.

On the job candidate front, I have so far attended two meals with candidates and gone to four job talks, with the bulk of the finalists for our five searches still to come. By the time we get done with the process, I will likely have attended three or four more meals and eight or nine more job talks, to say nothing of reading the relevant files. And of course there'll be the usual round of informal consultations and formal meetings as the department goes about the task of selecting the people to whom we'll extend offers.

This is in no way a complaint. In many ways these kinds of tasks are rewarding. Many of the applicants for graduate study have led interesting lives and done interesting work. The job talks, for their part, invariably provide a window into some intriguing historical problem I hadn't previously considered. But it all eats up time. And more to the point, it isn't stuff I can blog about, because so much of the process needs to be held in confidence.

Still, from time to time things crop up that are blogworthy. For instance, on top of all the stuff I've mentioned above, I also prepared a grant proposal to support another conference, this one on war and globalization, with a critique of The Pentagon's New Map as one of the rationales and a focused issue in the Journal of World History as the main projected product. That went into the hopper last Friday; I'll hear the verdict sometime in April, and if it's funded I'd like to convene the conference in the spring of 2006.

Then too, last Friday I spent an hour being interviewed on something called Civil War Talk Radio, which isn't disseminated by radio at all but rather by streaming audio on the web. An acquaintance of mine is the host, his regular guest had to cancel out a couple of days before the scheduled broadcast--er, webcast--and he asked me to fill in. Our point of departure was whether and to what extent the Civil War deserves to be called a total war, though the conversation ranged more widely than that. The promotional copy reads that I talk about "the motivations and actions of the men who fought for the North. Was the Civil War a total war? How did Northern soldiers treat the civilians they encountered, both free and enslaved? What racial attitudes characterized white Northern soldiers?" I also got asked what is apparently a standard question given to all guests; essentially: If you could go back in time and talk to one person in an effort to avert the Civil War, to what year would you go and with whom would you speak? If you're interested in my response to that and other burning questions, check out the broadcast.

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