End of Module

Posted in Uncategorized on January 18, 2011 by iosaturnalia

I’ve been somewhat absent from ‘Winjah’ for the last few weeks, due to large amounts of Archaeology revision, and working on the Wiki- group task.
However; the lectures at the end of term were those by various groups, critiquing the existing wiki article that they were going to look at.
These were… mixed. Mostly, it was clear that at least one person in each group had made an effort, and perhaps they all had other work to do, but it was clear that little research had been done on the whole.
For our own, I felt we performed quite well, and had a fantastic end graphic to our PowerPoint, courtesy of a group member with a flair for such things (I’d better not mention names on the internet). The feedback was also pretty good, particularly as I one day hope to be lecturing myself (as an unfortunate side effect of research, obviously).
As I mentioned, our project was about Persian Government, and frankly, it’s fascinating. As Hegel described it (crudely paraphrased) “A true empire in the modern sense”; modern here referring to Napoleonic era empires.
[Aside: we say history is written by the winners, but if we’re calling it after a person, it’s always “Napoleonic” never “Welllingtonic”. Well, maybe the ugliness of the word is to blame here, but still: interesting]
Anyway, Persia is a kind of opposite to Rome, to my eyes. Obviously, they were both empires, but Persia operated on a hereditary monarchy, with few (Darius I the notable exception) coming to power by deposing the previous king; Rome, as we know, was first a Republic and then an Empire with a great fear of a monarchy, despite having an Emperor for the second half or so or its era. Of these emperors, particularly in the later periods there were any number of non-hereditary successors, many of whom came to power via bloodshed.
The Romans were pretty hands-off with their bureaucracy, after urbanisation, but their peoples adopted their culture pretty willingly (Of course, this is all horrendous oversimplification, but I’m not going into all this; Read Aspects of Roman History AD 14-117 by Alston or The Roman World by Goodman for proper discussion). The Persians seem pretty hands-on, at least in Fars, with state employed bureaucrats and so on, but other areas seem to have been left to their own devices, provided they paid their taxes. The Sakae, for example, seem to have been little changed by the Persian influence, despite being an elite part of their army.
Perhaps not a complete comparison, but one that raises interesting questions; throw in the Chinese “empire”, and you’ve got a monograph on disparity in structure and operation of large state societies in Old World Ancient History.
The last lecture of term (besides the summation next Wednesday) was more like a discussion tutorial. It made a nice change from simply sitting and making notes and made me wonder: why don’t we routinely have tutorials in Ancient History? I suppose it must be a question of staffing, but it’s still quite odd.
Over the whole period of study, I have become even more aware of the rift between archaeology and ancient history; a rift that makes no sense. The archaeologists, or so it appears from their literature, have this idea that looking directly at material culture is in some way superior to reading the ancient literature. Equally, a historian should not do something so base as to grub around in the mud for evidence; he must look instead to the carefully preserved writings.
For a joint-schools student, this is incredibly annoying. If the two disciplines had heads I would bang them together and cry “It’s all the same thing, damnit! Stop sniping at each other and focus on the subject at hand!”
This is not the view held by most of my lecturers (as far as I know), and I may well keep quiet about it for a few years yet.
And… that might be everything for today.
*Checks word count*
I really did rant for 600 words- clearly I am cut out to be an historian.

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Lecture 12 and 13

Posted in Uncategorized on December 1, 2010 by iosaturnalia

Monday’s exercise allowed me to improve dramatically on my essay. I’m hoping that means I’ll have improved on my previous attempt. I’ve done a lot of extra research for it over the last day or two, so I think that will have made a difference.
I’ve also changed groups for the wiki task, so now I’m going to do Persia. A little off the beaten track, but extremely interesting. And we’ve got quite a bit from Persia, if I’m not mistaken, in epigraphic form, so there should be enough to put together a decent article if we’re not too picky about what to include.

Lectures 10 and 11

Posted in Uncategorized on November 28, 2010 by iosaturnalia

Unfortunatly I couldn’t attend the replacement lecture on Monday, as I had archaeology group work scheduled in for the same time. However, I found the powerpoints on blackboard quite useful: the bibliography is something I (think) I’ve come to grips with, though it was where I think I lost most marks on the first essay. As I’ve not yet got my second one back, I can’t tell that I’ve improved, but I hope I have. I certainly tried to.

Interpretation and critical thinking are (in my opinion) the most important thing about studying history, and trying to convince people of this is harder than it sounds. After all, most of it is conjecture from what we already know, which is why I take great pleasure in being able to disagree with an “authority” on the subject. Sometimes it’s nice to know that you can reach a different conclusion from the same evidence; it’s part of what makes history alive. If there was only one “correct” interpretation we’d be repeating each other forever, or at least until we decided to give up, go home and study physics or something.

Lecture 11 was critiquing the critical reviews from last year’s students. This was directly helpful, in that I previously was a little unclear on what to put in, and afterwards I wrote my review on the train home (a four hour journey; ample time). It was also indirectly helpful; the skills we use to pick apart their essays can easily be applied to any “proper” historian’s argument, often with similar effectiveness. It was, if anything, a way of practicing this critcal thinking we’d covered the previous lecture.

Lectures 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16, 2010 by iosaturnalia

We continuted looking at evidence. Most of the stuff about selective transmission I’d already encountered at A-level, but it was useful to be reminded of it. We also considered how and when to reference, which I was particularly grateful for, since referencing let me down in my essay. I hope I’ve improved on that now.

We then looked at some examples of source analysis essays, and then planned one about Aristotle. I can’t say I’m warming to him, though I’m trying.  I think I’ve pinpointed my dislike of him back to his dismissal of the Spartan system of government, which I find interesting. I’ll have to keep that in mind when working with Aristotle, or else I might fall into the trap of thinking I’m being objective when I cannot be.

Getting along okay with my source analysis, though I’m finding the 1000 words word limit constraining, again. There’s so much I could talk about in my essay, I could easily push it to 3000 words, but instead I’ve had to cut it back to the bare miminum, meaning it seems a little threadbare. I’ll have to see what I can do about that.

Lecture 5

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27, 2010 by iosaturnalia

We’ve begun looking at sources, using Aristotle as an example. This is a bit of a shame, as I’ve encountered Aristotle before and always found him to be extremely negative,  but he is extremely useful for illustration of point. After all, he’s certainly pushing an agenda, he’s writing for a specific group and he’s very clear about his views, and yet they seem to tally so well with those Macedonians he’s friendly with…

One of the things I hadn’t thought of though, was applying the “could they have known?” principle (one day we’ll invent a word for that) to secondary sources. I’d always sort of taken it for granted that if they asserted something that I didn’t know about they probably had access to evidence I’d never seen. I suppose that’s part of the transition from Sixth Form to University.

I haven’t yet decided on which artifact or source passage to look to for my source critique; I’d really like to look at a loaded die from Vindolanda, but, as delightful as it is, I don’t think I can write 1000 words on it, and it’s not really that useful in the wider context, as artifacts go.

Lecture 4

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27, 2010 by iosaturnalia

Okay, so outline over, let the real history commence!

That’s not to say the outline wasn’t useful; doubtless it’ll stand me in good stead for years to come, but it will be nice to get on with something I can have a proper discussion about, inside or outside of lectures.

We’ve also touched on periodisation, which too should be useful in future.

Lecture 3

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20, 2010 by iosaturnalia

Continued overview of Ancient History; Hellenistic World to the Death of Caesar, so probably a little more time next lecture to get to the Fall of Rome.

Not much chance for group interaction at this point, but that doesn’t worry me as we’re only doing the overview. Some people are keen to raise questions, allowing clarification and breaking (for want of a better word) the monotony of a lecture. That’s not to suggest I find my lectures boring, but there is a limit to how long one can actively listen to a single voice without drifting.

Research for the essay continues; having some of my A-level notes posted down by my parents which should arrive tomorrow. Considering this very post is now longer than 100 words, the limit of 1000 is beginning to seem very daunting. Perhaps some extreme cuts will be required in the editing stage.