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Oooh … Books!

26 March, 2006

Oooh … Books!

Hello, the internets. I’m taking a few moments from my self-imposed, not-very-well-managed exile from blogging to pose a couple of questions…

  1. If you teach World Civ, what text book(s)/reader(s) do you use and and what do you like about them? I’m going back to teaching World at SLAC, and the last time I taught World (last year), I used the new edition of Bentley and really didn’t like it. I need to teach World in a way that meets new state’s secondary teaching requirement, which still has an awful lot on Europe’s Middle Ages (yay), but also major Asian and African empires and religions — South America not presented as contemporaneous with Rome would be nice.
  2. I get to help build the non-US collection in SLAC’s library!!! If you have suggestions for books you think a solid undergrad collection can’t do without, please tell me what you think. I really want to order the new Chris Wickham, but at $175, I’m thinking no. Also, since I will be teaching Historiography eventually, and also directing 300-400 level research papers, can you think of good medieval and ancient primary sources in translation?? My stuff tends to all be edited, but in Latin and German, and I really don’t know what’s out there for non-Carolingians anymore. I used Chibnall’s Orderic as an undergrad, and was thinking that might be good …

On an entirely other note, I saw V for Vendetta last night. I thought it was very good, with a couple of icky moments, and was OK with the updated historical context, although I can see how people might object.

OH — and I need to buy an electric screwdriver. I’m just hanging curtains. What I want is a decent cordless drill/screwdriver, but I think that might be excessive and I’ll just have one more heavy thing to move. Is a basic Black and Decker-type cordless screwdriver good enough to screw curtain rod hangers into wooden window frames? (Yes, I let X keep all the power tools — he does actually use most of them).

15 Comments leave one →
  1. 26 March, 2006 10:17 pm

    I liked Bentley, so I’m not going to be much help to you – the things that I didn’t like about it were outweighed by what I like about their approach. (But we’re trained in the same school of world history so that’s not very surprising!) There’s supposed to be a new text coming out from Houghton Mifflin that I actually liked a bit better, but I can’t find anything about it yet. I really like the Wiesner et al. reader, Discovering the Global Past – really good introductions to the sources, good discussion questions, nice thematic approaches to the sources. (Ex: ideas of beauty in the ancient world, with examples from Greece, Rome, the Mayas, and Africa.) It’s similar to Andrea and Overfeld (I think that’s called the Global Record or something?) but I like it better, and I think it’s more recently updated.As for the sources question: it’s hard to know where to start! how about looking through the Penguin classics as a place to start? And what topics do you see yourself teaching? That would be one way to start buying stuff (e.g. if you were teaching Crusades I could give you suggestions, but when faced with all the Middle Ages I go kind of blank). I really like all the Broadview primary source readers for teaching – they’re not things students would exactly do research out of, but looking at them might give you some inspiration.

  2. 26 March, 2006 11:25 pm

    Don’t get me started on the Wickham book, I rapidly get unhinged about what this says about scholarly publishing.World History: I like the Worlds Together Worlds Apart book published by Norton.

  3. 26 March, 2006 11:58 pm

    Primary sources for Renaissance history/historiography:Juxtaposing Bruni’s “History of the Florentine People” (ava in two volumes) with Machiavelli’s “Florentine History” can be fun. You can get a good sense of classicism in Renaissance history when you look at Machiavelli’s “Discourses on Livy.” Get Guicciardini’s “History of Italy” as well. Thomas More dabbled in history as when he wrote “The History of King Richard III”.Here’s an interesting compilation of historiography articles from JSTOR at U Florida

  4. 27 March, 2006 1:34 am

    I myself have worked on the Middle English prose Brut, but it’s not in a modern English translation (although there’s always Caxton’s “version”). There’s also Layamon’s Brut, which is in a MnE translation by Rosamund Allen. Also, there are some good translations of Wace’s “Roman de Brut”. Robert Mannyng of Brunne’s chronicle is in a nice Middle English edition – his English isn’t hugely difficult – you could teach some excerpts of it. And finally, I know that Julia Marvin at Notre Dame is doing an edition (and perhaps a translation?) of the Anglo-Norman prose Brut!I got secondary sources if you want…chronicles are cool.

  5. 27 March, 2006 3:03 am

    Given that they are paperbacks, I’m not sure if they would be good for building up long-term library resources, as well as possible syllabus choices, but I would suggest looking closely at the Oxford World’s Classics as well as the Penguin Classics.Too many of their titles are excerpts, or abridged, to make me completely happy with the current list, and some are out of print, but other volumes are complete translations with helpful introductions and notes, of material not otherwise available in English.

  6. 27 March, 2006 4:11 am

    Thanks, everybody, and please keep the suggestions coming. For example, Ancient/Medieval types — For an UG library, should I make sure we have Bloch and Ganshof? Or are they too old now? It seems to me they’re still hugely relevant, but for undergrads? I was thinking also much of the series that includes E. James’ The Franks and M. Todd’s The Anglo-Saxons (I think that’s the one Todd did … but there’s so much new stuff coming out in Late Antique these days. I want to make sure I get Sarah Pomeroy’s latest on Greek women, but again, my knowledge of what’s currently considered ‘must-haves’ is perhaps outdated …And Steve, I know! I read the discussion on the Wickham book on Mediev-L, and it’s just a damned shame. But it has got such great reviews … Argh.

  7. 27 March, 2006 6:33 am

    We’ve been using Pearson/Longman’s Civilization: Past and Present (Brummett, et al.) and it’s been a mixed bag. It’s a very up-to-date text (most of the “that’s not quite right” sections of my lecture notes from previous texts are now outdated), but I’m increasingly frustrated with the organization, which doesn’t seem as intuitive or as evenly distributed as the B/Z. It’s too bad, too, because the Asia chapters are some of the best I’ve ever read (thanks, Barbara Molony!), so that I can spend my time talking about interesting things. The web-based documents are pretty good, but get kind of thin (ironically) towards the modern era. So much to choose from, I guess.

  8. 27 March, 2006 3:45 pm

    $175 sounds like a lot for an individual, but I don’t know if it’s all that much for a library. I was sure mine would say no to a 188 euro book on very specialized classics topic and they didn’t bat an eye. anyway, all i’m saying is at $175 it is priced for libraries, not people. can’t hurt to ask at any rate.

  9. 27 March, 2006 4:03 pm

    Bloch is still relevant, I think, but from what I’ve read of Ganshof – blech. Pirenne is still good, not only for his insights, but for what he got wrong – good discussion stuff there.Most of my primary stuff is Merovingian, which I’m going to assume you know about, but Procopius’ Secret History is always a good read.Meager stuff, I know – it’s been a while since I’ve been in academia.

  10. 27 March, 2006 7:15 pm

    Over here, the Routledge series are generally favoured for classical and late antique introductory texts for undergraduates. Although, looking at Amazon it seems that the pricing seems to be the same as with the Wickham — take the UK price and double it — ouch! And, of course, you’ll need the new series Cambridge Ancient History as well — oh dear, same pricing policy again.

  11. 28 March, 2006 12:12 am

    I am currently using Bulliet et al’s The Earth and Its Peoples. It works for the way I teach World I and World II. My students have not commented on it. I second New Kid’s reccommendation of the Weisner series. I have used Weisner and the Andrea and Overfield’s The Human Record and like the approaches of both. However, right now I am very frustrated because several students have been trying to take the easy way out and answering the questions (for short Andrea and Overfield assignments) with the introductory material and not the primary sources. I have had this problem with the Weisner book too. Comes with the territory I reckon. And it still makes me bang my head against the wall.

  12. 28 March, 2006 1:26 am

    Steve, I ordered the Wickham book for my institution so you can ILL it in all its overgrown glory. We had a surplus of library money going a’begging so I put it 24th on my list of supplemental purchases and was surprised when they authorized it.ADM, check out Longman’s catalogue, too (they’re now owned by Pearson) — they have a lot of interesting collections of articles on medieval and early modern history topics that I’ve picked up for the library or for my own collection. Both their historiography and regular history sections have some good books. (I recommend Tosh for historiography classes.)

  13. 28 March, 2006 3:39 am

    Thanks! hey, all … I’m noticing nobody has many concrete suggestions for “must-haves” Anybody have strong feelings on the new Peter Heather book?

  14. 28 March, 2006 5:15 am

    Well, I was tempted by the Heather (and the Ward-Perkins for that matter), but the offer of Wickham as an anniversary present was irresistible.How about Purcell and Horden’s “The Corrupting Sea” or McCormick’s “Origins of the European Economy”.

  15. 31 March, 2006 8:05 pm

    I just have a really hard time identifying any “must-haves” in anything (it’s too much like a canon!), especially in secondary lit. It’s just so contingent on what you teach. Much as you will probably mock me for this, students taking my classes will probably never feel a need to read Bloch (let alone Ganshof,though to be honest, I kind of liked Ganshof better!). However, I’d make sure we have all the myriad late medieval social history stuff by folks like Hanawalt and Bennett. And I have to confess that personally, I much prefer to buy more recent scholarship for a library than I do the classics. Partly this is because I approach pretty much every research paper I assign from the point of view that they are going to HAVE to use ILL/other libraries in the area, and it’s not like they’re not going to be able to get hold of Bloch or Ganshof somewhere. And partly it’s because logistically, it’s much easier to order stuff that’s still in print/currently appearing in catalogues, than it is to buy the older stuff. But I’ll also confess I’ve never really known what the best principles are to use to build up a library’s collection…

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