Future of Jstor

IMproPRieTies has posted a very interesting article on the future of Jstor.

I say make it free for all but I would.


Wiki Archive

Gavin Robinson has written as great post about UK National Archives’ Your Archives.

He says:

First the good points. The scope of the wiki is much bigger than I was expecting. I thought it would only include PRO holdings, but it actually covers the National Register of Archives too, which effectively means that the site can include any archives in the UK. This is the first sign that the merger of the PRO and NRA to form the National Archives is having some tangible benefits – I previously suspected that it was just vacuous rebranding but Your Archives promises to prove me wrong. This is a particularly important benefit because there isn’t necessarily much logic to which repository documents end up in, especially older documents. For example, the records of the Parliamentarian Ordnance Office, which were a major source for my work on saddles, are split between the PRO, the British Library, the Bodleian Library, and the Museum of London. Even the ones at the PRO are illogically split between SP28 and various WO classes rather than being kept together. As far as I know, the best guide to these sources is an appendix of my unpublished PhD thesis, which is hardly ideal

However, the thrust of the blog post is the limiting activity the PRO has set on the wiki.

For me it shows the PRO just doesn’t get the internet. Information is their business. In fact they are in many ways the custodians of information, protecting it from all but the worthy. Yet the internet has changed this. The PRO could play a very important role to play in the development of historical information on the intent. The potential for digitalisation projects and co-ordination of research efforts is almost limitless. However, they must first stop seeing themselves as protectors of the information and begin to realise that they are in fact distributors.

Facebook Military History Network

OK – I have blogged about it and moaned to just about anyone who will listen. You know my mantra by now.

‘The internet has changed the world’

‘Its all about building communities and networks’

Well its time to try something a bit different.

I have set up a Facebook network called Military History.

Facebook is straight forward. You register an account and then join the network. This then brings everyone together in a large network. Facebook has all the facilities you would expect – forum, pictures, comments etc.

However, the point of the exercise is to see if we can try and build a community of dedicated online military historians.

So I need your support with this. Go and register, join the community and then blog it!

Sacked for blogging

Andy Frayn pointed out the following article:

Staff see red over online policing
Phil Baty and Tony Tysome
Published: 18 May 2007
Staff face dismissal for criticising their employers in chatrooms and blogs, report Phil Baty and Tony Tysome.

Academics’ internet activity is increasingly being “spied on” by managers, it was claimed this week after a lecturer at Wolverhampton University was sacked for making a series of allegations online.

Union leaders and academic freedom campaigners argued this week that lecturers and researchers must be free to criticise their managers and to discuss their jobs without fear of reprisal.

But university marketing chiefs warned that online activities such as blogs and web forums are increasingly being monitored by universities keen to protect their reputation.

The debate was sparked by the case of Sal Fiore, a senior lecturer in computing at Wolverhampton. An investigation by The Times Higher has established that he was sacked on grounds of gross misconduct last month following a series of e-mails.

Evidence against him included a posting he had made to a discussion forum in which he named Wolverhampton in association with general bullying allegations.

Dr Fiore had also contributed to a blog for bullied academics – bulliedacademics.blogspot.com – where academics this week complained that they were under surveillance.

One said that managers use postings “to ‘get’ their targets on some violation of university policy”. Another said that bosses were “snooping around, looking for ‘evidence'”.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said:

“Academics should not be made to feel that any comment they make may be picked up by some sort of university spy team and used against them.”

Peter Reader, director of marketing and communications at Bath University, said that there was “huge interest” in such websites and that universities were beginning to monitor them.

Wolverhampton confirmed that Dr Fiore’s dismissal related to a number of incidents. Geoff Hurd, deputy vice-chancellor, said: “No member of staff has been, or ever will be, dismissed for exercising their right to freedom of speech.”


I have two things to say:

  1. Never blog/email/post anything your wouldn’t be prepared to say in public,
  2. The response of the university is of no surprise. Universities are unaware of the power of the internet. They relate free democratic speech with negative reactions. If the university was superb, if it strived to offer the best possible academic experience and if they were truly proud of their institutions – they would be falling over themselves to encourage people to blog.

The Perfect History Site

I am working on a couple of new posts that develop my ideas of how history can be best presented on the web.

This follows on from this post (amongst others).

Here are my random thought on a perfect history site:

Ability to create my own ‘section’ which contains my profile and ability to up load work,

Ability to link my section to others with similar interests,

Ability to search sections to find ‘interesting’ information and profiles,

Ability to find and contact other historians with a similar interest to my own,

Ability to search on a topic (military history) and find all relevant pages within the site etc,

List of history Jobs

Books, films and games – reviews and discounts when buying,

Lists of conferences I might like to attend,

Daily updates via email or RSS

Free articles on interesting subjects,

Afghanistan campaign medal


There are few scholarly works on the subject of the Victoria Cross. In fact, beyond the Evolution of the Victoria Cross, most studies concentrate on biographical information or collections of citations. These are of little value to a serious historian.

My research has shown that the origins of the VC can be traced back to two major sources. The first is the system of awards seen in India during the 19th century. In essence, these set a precedent for awarding soldiers for individual actions. The second major developmental area is that of the campaign medal. The most influential medal being the Waterloo Medal, which was presented in the wake of the battle of Waterloo (1815). It was given to all those involved, but since the general army lists were used to determine just who should receive the medal; both combatants and non-combatants were rewarded. This went someway to later devaluing the medal as the British public struggled to separate the ideas of battlefield involvement and battlefield gallantry.

However, a precedent had been set with soldiers being awarded publically for military actions. This was a system that was beyond, and independent to, the existing system of monetary award, brevet promotions and honorific titles.

I am currently reading Saul David’s Victoria’s Wars in which he addresses conflicts between 1837 and 1861. Though he lacks the sophistication of other Empire writers, such as Niall Ferguson, his pragmatic approach does yield rewards. At the end of his section regarding the first Afghan War (1839-1842), he writes the following about Queen Victoria’s response to the war:

‘She [Queen Victoria] also gave permission for her own troops to wear the Afghanistan campaign medals that Lord Ellenborough had had struck fro the Indian Army. Active service medals were, at the time, extremely rare. A Waterloo Medal has been struck in 1816 and a Peninsular Medal would be, retrospectively, in 1846. Thanks to the example set by the HEIC in 1842, campaign medals with battle bars would become the norm. Yet the queen could not help feeling, or so she told Peel, that it would have been more appropriate if the Afghan Medal had come from herself and not from the governor-general of India.’

This quote demonstrates two important points.

The first is the cross fertilisation with the privately owned Indian Army. Though unproved, much circumstantial evidence suggests that, the manner in which Indian Army soldier were rewarded acted as a blueprint for the Victoria Cross.

The second is the growing need to recognise the actions of individual soldiers. The highly public campaign medal offered a chance for overt recognition of the soldier’s sacrifice. Since the publication of soldier’s letters during the Crimean war, the image of the British soldier had begun to soften, changing from Wellington’s ‘scum’ towards warrior heroes defending the frontiers of the Empire.

In my view, the reaction to the disastrous first Afghan War went some way to setting the foundations for later changes in the British gallantry Award system and the eventual introduction of the Victoria Cross.

Military History Carnival #2

Welcome to the second Military History Carnival.

I have tried to follow Gavin Robinsons‘ excellent lead by choosing posts that are not only fascinating but also represent the broad spectrum of topics covered by the remit of ‘military history’. In compiling this Carnival I have been struck by the international nature of the many blogs and I hope my selection will go some way to proving that the internet truly extends beyond physical borders.

Blogging what is it good for?

Over the past few weeks a debate (argument!) has sprung up regarding the importance of blogging as a tool for military historians. It is best summarised by Dan Todman at Trench Fever and Dr Esther MacCallum-Stewart at Break of Day in the Trenches.

The debate revolved around the growing importance of the internet as a tool for spreading ideas and it was generally agreed that history blogging is in a pretty healthy state. In fact, it turned out that you bloggers are a creative lot. This is shown clearly at Lifeasdaddy, where Bob Meade has used his blog to showcase a series of rare photographs of a Royal Navy midget submarine taken in Subic Bay, Philippines during World War II. Whilst, at English Russia you can see a set of more modern photos examining structures scattered in the forests around St. Petersburg and Kronstadt island which were used in the World War 1 and 2.

However, some bloggers have been even more adventurous. Steamboats are Ruining Everything has used Google Maps to look more closely at the devastation caused during the Chechen Wars in Grozny, Chechnya. Blog4History has written about the importance of digitalising historical records and MyHistoryNotes is promoting his favourite blogs through a ‘H-List’.

State of Military History

Despite military history being a rapidly growing part of the history blogosphere, the role of the subject our universities is not so healthy. Professor Mark Grimsley argues that military history in US academic institutions is slowly being sidelined. Yet, for Ross Mahoney the situation in the UK is far more positive.

All around the world.

The international flavour of the blogs submitted for this months Carnival has left me feeling as though I have been on a cheap, yet fascinating trip around the world.

It all started in the UK with Elizabeth Chadwick and a re-enactment Anglo Saxon life. This was quickly followed by a trip up north to Memorabilia Antonina to learn all about Hadrian’s Wall and its link to George Bush’s planned fence along the US-Mexican border. I had time for a quick stop off with Gavin Robinson for a pleasant chat about English Civil War cavalry tactics and before meeting with George Simmers at Great War Fiction to discuss why people in 1914/15 were so eager to believe and disseminate atrocity stories?

A hop across the pond to America led me to King’s Chronicles who was talking about the Battle of Hampton Roads and the duel between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. Once in the US, I found that ex-presidents were all the rage with Britannica Blog discussing Ronald Reagan’s role in today’s ideas about combating terror, spreading democracy, and making the world “less nuclear”, and Thoughts on Military History was asking why President Truman decided to use the atomic bomb. I love a good battlefield trip and Behind AotW convinced me that the battlefield Visitor’s Center at Antietam was a ‘must visit.’ Whilst in that neck of the woods, I dropped in on The 48th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry who told me of a many, many years’ long mystery that was recently solved. My packed schedule left me time to visit Brain Blogger to find out whether war is a psychosis and learn about the meaning of Jamestown from the Dougout.

From the US it was a long haul to the Far East with stops at China, Korea and Japan. Here I learned about African mercenaries fighting alongside Ming troops during the Imjin Wars and Chinese airpower from Frog in a Well. I ended my visit by viewing a bound sketchbook containing a series of 36 pencil and watercolour sketches drawn by Commander Mervyn Scott Lindslay whilst a prisoner of the Japanese, which was being displayed at BibliOdyssey.

I then had time for a quick stop off at India to discover some interesting facts about the Battle of Khajwa from Horse and Sword, before a jump to Russia to get involved in an interesting discussion between the Rhine River and Oxblog about whether Stalin and the Soviet people should get most of the laurels for victory in World War Two?

Next stop was back into Europe, with a quick visit to Switzerland with Strange Maps before moving onto to Spain to meet up with Airminded who looked closely at the bombing of Guernica on its 70th anniversary. From Spain it was a short but interesting journey to France. Here I learned of The Cannon’s Mouth’s recent trip to the WW1 battlefields. However, it was France’s more distant past that took my fancy, with You’re History guiding me through the Papal Crusade against the Languedoc Cathars and A Commonplace Book offering me an insight into the limited number of ways an edge blow can be effective against plate armor.

My trip left me feeling all Dr Who! So, a journey in time was in order.

Firstly, it was off to ancient Greece to find out how the book Watership Down reminded Tacithydra of the night attack of the Athenians on the Syracusans. Before finally returning to the future (or was it the past?) to discover Paleo-Future’s gigantic robots.

Exhausted but happy, this just leaves me to thank you for reading this issue of the Military History Carnival.

The May issue will take place on 17th June at Behind Antietam on the Web.

Submissions can be e-mailed to $bdowney$@$aotw$.$org$ (but remove the dollar signs!) or use the submission form here.