Monday, January 24, 2005

Rally 'Round the Blog


From Mark G.:


Welcome to Civil Warriors.

I've been blogging for over a year now--first on a "homemade" blog site and, since early December, on a conventional blog site called War Historian.

Blogging has turned out to be not only fun but also, surprisingly, a good way to spur my productivity. I've found that blog entries can be a useful way to "write out loud," and to knock out what can wind up being a pretty good rough draft of an article planned for conventional publication. To see what I mean, check out the archived blog entries under "Counterfactuals and Contingency." I wrote them over eleven days. By the time I'd finished the series I had 7,000 words. Within hours I had revised this into an article for North and South magazine:

"Second-Guessing Bobby Lee: A Counterfactual Assessment of Lee's Generalship During the Overland Campaign."

Fine, the academics among you may sniff, but what did that do for your career? Well, not much directly, but the $600 commission bought me a lot of books. And blogging made the job almost effortless.

Even so, the real value of blogging lies elsewhere. While comparatively few people discovered my blog during the first year, those who did included military historians who found it thought-provoking and prospective students whom it influenced to consider graduate study at OSU.

If that sounds unlikely, consider what's happened since the "change of base" to a Blogger-powered site made War Historian easier to find. Not only have hits increased, the ideas in War Historian are starting to find the right audience. Moreover, it's a surprisingly generous audience.

From an entry in today's Cliopatria, a group blog on History News Network:

But I want to return to my earlier point about blogging and the virtual community of history blogging. There's a fascinating point at which Cliopatria's and, then, Big Tent's, chez Nadezhda's and Early Modern Notes's discovery of Mark Grimsley's War Historian becomes known to all four of us. At Big Tent, Tom Bruscino's prior interest in military history means that he knows something about what Grimsley is about, but Cliopatria's and chez Nadezhda's finding his blog and Early Modern Notes's featuring it in the History Carnival causes Grimsley's readership to spike and for good reason.

What kind of military historian features pictures of Robert E. Lee and Che Guevara on his blog's masthead; and what kind of military historian talks about a "post-colonial military history"? This is intriguing stuff! Even to those of us not ordinarily moved by guns and battles. Here's a military historian asking big, interesting questions of his special field; and answering them in ways that would interest all of us. Here's the kind of military historian who even the University of Michigan might want to lure. And he freely and generously shares of himself at War Historian. I'm making copies of his "‘Thieves, Murderers, and Trespassers': The Mythology of Sherman's March" and passing them out to all my neighbors here in Atlanta. Maybe I'll get to know them better. As Ben Wolfson said at The Weblog on Friday, "I confess that life is awesome."

From an entry in today's Irregular Analyses, a group blog kept by A Few Adequate Men:

Heh, we've got a small heads up from Professor Mark Grimsley's "War Historian" blog, which has featured in the links section since this site started.

I've tried to encourage various people in the War Studies department to visit War Historian for a while now and I'd like to take this opportunity to do so again, if anyone from the department is reading. Anyone who knows my opinions on various issues and the way that I look at the world will know that the approach taken by the professor on many (non-military history) issues is not my own, but even when I don't agree with him his work - especially on the state of military history today - is excellent, self critical and thought provoking. Also, he's the guy who wrote the chapter on the American Civil War in The Dynamics of Military Revolution. 'Nuff said. It's borderline criminal that somebody who helps run arguably the best military history postgrad programme in the world gets so few visits to his site. Git chore arse over there.
For other recent examples, see Flogging the Blog on War Historian.

I'm perhaps belaboring this point because unlike my other blog, which is a solo enterprise, I hope to have company on this one.

A few weeks ago I began meeting with a small readings group of graduate students in my history department. We began with four of us: myself, two of my advisees on the early US history side of the house, and a student in women's history. With the addition of two grad students in military history, we're up to six. I'm in no hurry to grow the group. Often it's best to start small, establish the tone you want, and add membership slowly. But I believe in doing things well, and experience has convinced me that the web in general, and blogging in particular, can be intellectual "force multipliers" if used astutely. Consequently I've created Civil Warriors and invited the three original group members to join me in posting here.

Well, I've built it. But will they come?

3 comments:

Jonathan Dresner said...

Yes. Though, as an Asianist, probably not often. But we're blogrolling you.

Mark G. said...

Actually, I meant my grad students. Happily, it looks like they're joining me in the blog. But I look forward to getting visitors, infrequent Asianists included. :-)

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