Hey folks, no post this week. Last weekend being my anniversary, my better half and I had ourselves a little vacation and this has left me a bit behind. Unfortunately, I have a bit of scholarly writing which requires my attention and rather than defeat the entire purpose of my vacation by pulling a long week so that nothing slips, I’ve opted to make this a gap week. I also don’t have any very interesting, well-formed Fireside thoughts right now that aren’t Classics Discourse, and frankly I think I’ve done enough Classics Discourse for a while. So gap week it is! On the upside, next week’s post (Part II of The Queen’s Latin) is shaping up to be pretty substantial (we’ll be talking about how the legal reality of citizenship status shapes Roman notions of identity).
But while you wait, I didn’t want to leave you all out in the cold, so here are a collection of things you could be reading or listening to in the meantime:
First, for those of you not on Twitter – one, congratulations for making good life choices – but two, I talked briefly on twitter about the pre-modern logistics ‘playbook’ which might be of interest to those who enjoy ACOUP‘s laser-like focus on logistics. While we’ve done some logistics studies here on ACOUP, I think a more complete list at all of the things that were in the (agrarian) pre-modern logistics playbook and how they worked is something we’ll end up doing before too long. In particular, I suspect a look at the playbook as a whole, rather than logistics studies of particular (real or fictional) campaigns may be of some interest to the worldbuilders among you.
(Patrons will already know why my thoughts have bent towards logistics, and particularly food logistics over the past few months, though the backlog of blog topics has meant that ACOUP has been slow to catch up. A reminder that Patrons get monthly updates on my research activities!)
Also of interest to the world-building types, a discussion on Medievalists.net on “How Large were Medieval Peasant Families“ which gets into some of the interesting factors that shape population, mortality and family size in a way that is rather more accessible than the often very specialist oriented pre-modern demography literature.
Over at War on the Rock and the Texas National Security Review, the Horns of a Dilemma podcast featured a talk by Thomas Ricks on the ways in which the late 18th and early 19th century understanding of Greece and Rome shaped the foundation of the United States. For students in the United States in particular, this is one of the clearest reasons to study the Greek and Roman Classics. It is a long observed notion that one should first learn why things are the way they are before seeking to change them (the principle known as ‘Chesterton’s Fence‘); understanding just what was praised and feared in the examples of Greece and Rome provides a useful set of tools to begin examining the structure of the government that was set up on the basis of those examples. That isn’t merely a defense of the framers either; a radically different understanding of that ancient past, perhaps informed by sources they didn’t have access too (like epigraphy or archaeology) or values they did not have, can serve to reframe debates. Some fences might be, after all, put up to rotten purposes.
Finally, this article, “The Historian and the Murderer” by Dominique K. Reill is, I think, required reading if you want to understand why academics seem so morose all of the time. It packages a discussion of just how broken the current economics of academia currently are inside of the narrative of a crime that was in turn made possible by that very broken system. The fact of slow career cycles (most academics now retiring got their jobs in the late 80s or early 90s, a large number of senior academics were hired pre-2008 when the job market was much healthier) and the rapidity of changes within the structures of academic hiring (I discuss some of the financial problems creating those bad changes here) has meant that even tenured faculty in academia often have at best a weak conception of what is happening to their more junior colleagues and graduate students, especially in the humanities. Even more so the public, which often imagines that the professors that teach at colleges and universities to be relatively leisured and privileged and have posh offices – assumptions which collapse once the legions of adjunct instructors on whom universities depend to do much of the teaching are considered.
Most folks in the public know ‘publish or perish’ and assume that still holds – but in fact it is now very possible to publish and still perish and that is what is happening to quite a lot of early career scholars. I’ve discussed the changes I think need to happen, particularly at public universities (where I think the public needs to put its foot down to stop the steady transfer of university resources away from instruction and towards administration and demand its tax dollars go to professors who teach classes in the form of more tenure-track hiring).