Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Applied History

Type "applied history" into a Google search and this definition is likely to appear at the top of the page:

Much of this describes what ideally happens in my classroom sans the museum, archival and preservation elements. Several years ago, in an effort to incorporate those elements and to address an oft-heard sentiment from students -- "I really love history, but I don't want to be teacher so I guess I can't pursue a career in history" -- I developed a proposal for a new course at the school where I teach called Applied History, a
semester-long class designed for a student interested in studying history in college or pursuing history as a career. The course will rely on in-depth historical interpretation and analysis (reading, researching and writing), while introducing students to the wide-range of possible careers in history besides the teaching of history: The essential theme of the course is that there is a "history" to everything and that there is a lot more one can do with history besides become an educator; one's interest or love of history can become a basis for a career. The course is hands-on, experience-based, and student centered following initial instruction/facilitation for each topic/unit from the instructor. Field trips to and guest speakers from a range of professionals, college and university programs, museums and historical societies and "virtual" field trips using numerous internet resources (e.g., Skype, conference calls, email, YouTube, Twitter, blogs, etc) will bring students into contact with a wide-range of historical experts and career possibilities.

While developing a proposal for this course I also corresponded with James Percoco, now retired from an award-winning career teaching at West Springfield High School in Springfield, Virginia and currently the Public Historian in Residence at American University. His classroom model is described in detail in two of his books, A Passion for the Past: Creative Teaching of U.S. History and Divided We Stand: Teaching About Conflict in U.S. History. Much of what Percoco places at the heart of the courses he taught was a hands-on and student-centered focus that sought to, as much as possible, get students out of the classroom to directly interact with historical sites, documents and artifacts. In his case, he relied heavily on his school's proximity to Washington DC to provide a great depth of first-hand learning experiences. While the DC-area does offer a unique set of museums, monuments and battlefields, Rhode Island has a fairly deep bench when it comes to historical sites and cultural resources -- not to mention Connecticut and Massachusetts both within easy field-trip range -- history is all around us!

My course rationale (excerpted below) focused on exploring the potential career option open to students with a passion for history:
Most students who like history and might otherwise consider a career in history are usually unaware of the other career opportunities for history beyond being a classroom teacher or college professor. Applied History seeks to give students hands-on, personal experience with a wide array of public history career opportunities while digging deeper into historical topics that the traditional US/World History course does not have the opportunity to explore. From this course students will gain an in-depth appreciation for all the ways that history is relevant to their lives and American society.
The rationale included this direct quote from James Percoco:
“Today more opportunities are available in the history profession than ever before. No longer do you have to be a teacher when you study history. Jobs are available in the private sector as consultants. You can work in a museum or at an archives. At national and state historic sites you can be an interpreter, or participate in living history programs. These are only a few of the many possibilities. Many of the students who have gone through the Applied History course have indeed gone on to careers in history; a number have studied historic preservation at both the undergraduate and graduate level, while others have gone into anthropology and archeology.” (James Percoco, A Passion for the Past, page 13)
And the proposed Curriculum Outline:
Unit I. Careers in History: Student interest inventory, “Everything and Everyone (including YOU) has a History”

Unit II. Origins and Memory: Genealogy, oral history, memory, narrative history, myth and storytelling

Unit III. Places. Public memory, monuments, and cemeteries; historic preservation (National Trust for Historic Preservation, Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission), tax-credits and restoration, (New England/US) history through architecture

Unit IV. Living History. Reenactments, docents, living historical communities (e.g., Plimouth Plantations, Sturbridge Village, Colonial Williamsburg); National Park Service; documentary film-making

Unit V. Public History. Museums and historical societies, collections management and curation, exhibits

Unit VI. The Nation. Military history, legal and constitutional history; the role and “uses” of history in nation-building and nationalism; coins, symbolism and the state

Unit VII. Social Science. sociology, anthropology, archaeology, history of language, linguistics and ethnology

Unit VIII. History and Science. Geology, paleontology, cosmology and “Big History;” history of math, science and technology

Unit IX. The Arts. Music history, art history, historical illustrations and photography, historically-themed theater and cinema

Unit X. Academic History. Teaching history, professional research, archives, rare books and special collections librarianship

Unit XI. Other Professionals. Real estate title-searches, genealogists, research consultants and think-tanks, document conservators, museum curators, lawyers and public administrators

Unit XII. The Future. Digital history and the digital historian.

Project-based Learning and Assessment

Students will generate a series of projects based on their interests to demonstrate their learning of course material, and share their discoveries via exhibits and presentations. Students will also create an electronic journal of their experiences in the class. The aim is to provide a “bridge” to a course of study in college in a number of possible career paths in public history, historic preservation, library and information studies, the social sciences and the humanities.
It was mentioned more than once to me during the approval process that this is a pretty ambitious curriculum for a one-semester high school course. The class would have necessarily been fast-paced, but the idea was cast a wide net and expose students to as many areas of history and potential career paths as possible, and let their interests dictate where they wanted to "drill down" into an area of particular interest through exhibits, projects and their journal.

Unfortunately, despite the course gaining the approval of the history and guidance departments, building department heads and administrative team (the assistant principal backed my proposal mainly because I was so enthusiastic about it), the school improvement team, and the district curriculum planning council, it failed to get a recommendation from the district-level administration and hence the school committee did not approve it -- the final (and crucial) hoop to clear in the approval process. In any event, if there is a turnover in district administration or if outside events improved its prospects for approval, I hope to propose it again. For instance, if Applied History were to gain a higher profile at say, the national level, that could improve the odds of my course being adopted.

What if Applied History suddenly became a Cabinet-level position in the executive branch? An article in September 2016's The Atlantic, "Why the U.S. President Needs a Council of Historians" makes the very practical argument that "most Americans live in what has been called the “United States of Amnesia,”" especially policymakers. Starting with the example of how the lack of historical depth by neocons the George W. Bush administration led to the current cornucopia of problems in the Middle East, authors Graham Allison and Niall Ferguson go on to point out that the Obama administration's overconfidence in its historical knowledge presents an obstacle to formulating good policies, such as in our current relations with Russia, and propose a solution to the problem:
"President Obama’s inattention to the deep historical relationship between Russia and Ukraine led him to underestimate the risks of closer ties between Ukraine and Europe. “I don’t really even need George Kennan right now,” President Obama told The New Yorker for a January 2014 article, referring to the great Cold War–era diplomat and historian. By March, Russia had annexed Crimea.

To address this deficit, it is not enough for a president to invite friendly historians to dinner, as Obama has been known to do. Nor is it enough to appoint a court historian, as John F. Kennedy did with Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. We urge the next president to establish a White House Council of Historical Advisers. Historians made similar recommendations to Presidents Carter and Reagan during their administrations, but nothing ever came of these proposals. Operationally, the Council of Historical Advisers would mirror the Council of Economic Advisers, established after World War II. A chair and two additional members would be appointed by the president to full-time positions, and respond to assignments from him or her. They would be supported by a small professional staff and would be part of the Executive Office of the President."

Historians are relevant because policy-makers and politicians often lack even a superficial understanding of the historical subtleties of any geographic region and, as Allison and Ferguson point out "historical analogies are easy to get wrong."

For example, they suggest that one of the reasons why current strategies at reversing the expansion of the Islamic State are ineffective is because of an analogical misunderstanding of the group. US policy-makers view ISIS as an offshoot of Al-Qaeda and have responded to its growth in a similar way, by taking out its leadership via drone strikes and supporting ground forces to drive it out of areas captured from failed states. But as an organization it would be more accurate to compare ISIS with "classic acephalous networks" such as the Bolsheviks, whose ideology and popular appeals resonated with people world-wide. But then what? Allison and Ferguson advise
"students and policy makers to follow a simple procedure: Put the comparison you are considering—for example, ISIS and the Bolsheviks—on a sheet of paper, draw a line down the page, and label one column “similar” and the other “different.” If you are unable to list three points of similarity and three of difference, you should consult a historian."
Niall Ferguson has taken this idea one step further. He is also director of the Applied History Project at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. On the Applied History Project's website, (currently the fifth result on the first page in my Google search for the phrase "Applied History" -- due to Google analytics, your mileage may vary) in which he provides a definition of Applied History that does not consider the role of "public historians" in understanding the past but rather prioritizes the problem-solving potential of our discipline:
"Applied History is the explicit attempt to illuminate current challenges and choices by analyzing historical precedents and analogues. Mainstream historians begin with an event or era and attempt to provide an account of what happened and why. Applied historians begin with a current choice or predicament and analyze the historical record to provide perspective, stimulate imagination, find clues about what is likely to happen, suggest possible interventions, and assess probable consequences."
Ferguson explains that his agenda is builds on the work of "two 20th-century giants: the modern historian Ernest May and the leading analyst of the American presidency, Richard Neustadt." He cites their 1986 book Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers, as providing "the foundation on which we intend to build." (NB: Thinking in Time is available for $3.99 as an e-book on Amazon; it is now on my "next-to-read" list right after I finish The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire, coincidentally a brilliant case study in policy-making gone wrong. If only George III had had a Privy Council of Historical Advisers...)

Ferguson then proposes a manifesto for the creation of a White House Council of Historical Advisers. Ferguson sees the Council dealing with a range of issues and problems confronting policy-makers as well as responding to unexpected crises and emergency situations.
“Is it unprecedented?” is just one of a number of questions or assignments that we propose the President could give his Council of Historical Advisers. Others include:
  • What lessons of statecraft from a former president’s handling of another crisis could be applied to a current challenge (“What would X have done?”)
  • What is the significance of a historical anniversary for the present? (a common topic for presidential speeches)
  • What is the relevant history of the state, institution, or issue at hand?
  • “What if?” some action had not been taken (the kind of question too seldom asked after a policy failure)
  • Grand strategic questions like “Can the United States avoid decline?”
  • Speculative questions about seemingly improbable future scenarios.

"...Of course," continues Ferguson, "building future scenarios is part of what intelligence agencies do. Yet, currently, historians play a very small part in this process. Applied historians do not have crystal balls. But they do have certain advantages over those who would try to answer such questions with models and regression analysis. They know that dramatic events that were dismissed as implausible before the fact are in hindsight frequently described as inevitable. Their study of previous sharp discontinuities encourages an “historical sensibility” that is attuned to the long-term rhythms, strategic surprises and daring coups de main that run through history."

If Ferguson's council ever becomes a reality, I will expand Unit VI of my course in Applied History to include "historical policy advisor" as a potential career path for students and resubmit the course for the approval process.

I for one support the creation of a White House Council of Historical Advisers with extreme prejudice.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Doing Digital Research

One of the benefits of twenty-first century technology is the availability of texts online in digital format. For printed government records or antiquarian books long out of print or copyright, one of the best repositories is the Internet Archive, "a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software,
music, websites, and more." The site is very user-friendly, and there are literally billions of resources available, from the materials I'm looking for -- .pdf scans of eighteenth century Acts and Resolves of the Rhode Island General Assembly and John Russell Bartlett's Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations -- to an extensive audio library of thousands of Grateful Dead concerts, 2.3 million book titles from dozens and dozens of American Libraries, and over 491 billion web pages in an Internet "Wayback Machine," curating an important component of recent history that would otherwise be lost in cyberspace.

Of course with all that cool stuff just one click away, one must be disciplined and not begin exploring all the rabbit holes at the Internet Archive...

Google Books is another online resource for digital documents but it is, in my humble opinion, less useful than the Internet Archive. Their downloadable scans are image scans rather than OCR scans, so they are not keyword searchable (more on OCR later). And since the last time I have done any serious digital research (I have purposefully taken the last two summers off from pursuing any new research projects to work on other things), Google appears to have taken a lot of documents that were previously downloadable and put them into a viewer system that I find cumbersome and difficult to navigate. While these are keyword searchable, in my experience serendipity plays a larger role than one might suspect -- I like to see the entire page rather than just the narrow slice of text in the viewer. One never knows what is right before or after the text that comes up in a keyword search -- often it is of little interest, but enough times it happens that the rest of the page turns out to be more important than the search term... Of course, all of this -- the unsearchable document scans, the snippets in the viewer, are due to Google being sued in Authors Guild v. Google and the resulting decision that found in favor of Google in large part because of their "snippets" policy.

Interestingly, while the Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine have, like Google, been targeted by lawsuits contending copyright infringement, the Internet Archive as a member of the Open Book Alliance, was one of "the most outspoken critics of the Google Book Settlement" and (unsuccessfully) challenged the court ruling that allowed Google Books to continue.

Then comes researching the texts of the .pdf files I have downloaded from the Internet. For this phase, my weapon of choice is the PDF-XChange Viewer. Unlike Adobe, which costs boku bucks and is constantly spamming unfortunate users with its the latest "security update," PDF X-Change is free and doesn't relentlessly bug users to update it, In fact, it has never bothered me to do anything ever after I installed it, though there is an commercial upgrade, the PDF-XChange Editor. It has some very useful functionality and, at $43, it is far less cheddar than Adobe's cheapest .pdf-editing program, which starts at $119. (Disclaimer: I bought a copy of it for the WRICHS Archive PC, and it has been a great tool for us that didn't break the bank.)

Now that I have downloaded my sources and opened them in the .pdf editing program, the next step is to use the editor's OCR (optical character recognition) to "rasterize" the document. This is a CPU intensive task and fairly time-consuming, even on a relatively new computer. For instance, as I type this I am having PDF-XChange OCR Volume IV of John Bartlett's Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, usually abbreviated as RICR. At 636 pages and taking 15-20 seconds per page, it will be 15 to 20 minutes before the file is rendered searchable (longer if I opt to use my computer while it rasterizes in the background -- such as writing this blog entry about digital research). When the OCR is done, I will be able to enter a search term and find all the instances where it appears.

In this case, the term I will be looking for in RICR Volume IV is pox, for an article I am writing about smallpox in 17th and 18th century Rhode Island. Once the .pdf has been rasterized, I'll type the term "pox" into the search window, and if it is anywhere in the text, it will take me to each page that "pox" appears in the text, starting with the first instance. Then I can screenshot the page using Irfan View (another great free program useful for quickly editing images like screenshots) and I have a Word .doc open where I then paste the screenshot. When I am finished, I will have a repository with all the references to smallpox from Bartlett in one place. If I decide I would like to quote from the original .pdf, I can manually transpose it or I can use the copy function in PDF-XChange to highlight, ctrl-c and ctrl-v the text right into the draft of my article. Note that the idiosyncrasies of eighteenth-century typeface don't always translate 100% with ye old "cut and paste" from a rasterized source.

So far, my searches have identified no references to smallpox in Bartlett earlier than 1690, when a serious outbreak struck Rhode Island that crippled the the colony's legislature and court system and left several town and colony officials dead. Thereafter, references to smallpox become more frequent. The colony eventually addressed the problem by passing strict quarantine laws for both towns and ships in the first quarter of the eighteenth century.

One question that emerges -- why are there no references to smallpox in Bartlett's RICR before 1690? Certainly, smallpox did not appear in Rhode Island for the first time in 1690. Several possible answers come to mind. First, colonists did not travel much in the early years of the colony. Rhode Island utterly lacked what would be considered passable roads, relying on "Indian paths" until the King's Highway was surveyed and and built after 1703. Also, since Rhode Islanders were regarded as religious and social pariahs by the Puritans in neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut, few Englishmen from neighboring colonies desired to travel through the colony. In any event it was far easier to travel around Rhode Island by water than through it by land in the 1600s, which limited the colony's disease vector vis-à-vis travelers introducing the infection. Likewise, Newport's mercantile economy did not emerge until the 1690s, so opportunities for smallpox to enter the colony through trade was far less in the seventeenth century than they would become once Newport and later Providence became centers of Atlantic commerce.

Second, the majority of people living in Rhode Island before 1675 were not Englishmen but rather the Narragansett. It is unlikely that the laconic English records would have noted outbreaks of smallpox
among the Indian population, even if they were quite severe. Perhaps the worst outbreak of smallpox among the native population in southern New England occurred from 1632-1634; the Narragansett experienced an epidemic in 1633 and another in 1635 that killed hundreds of tribal members, ending before Roger Williams founded Rhode Island in 1636.

In the wake of the mass movement of both Natives and English during King Phillip's War, a smallpox epidemic struck southern New England, as noted in Boston records. But given that nearly every building on the mainland in Rhode Island had been damaged or destroyed during the war, it is not surprising that an outbreak of smallpox was overlooked (or records of it lost) at a time when so many inhabitants were homeless and the colony nearly destroyed. It is important to note that Rhode Island's seventeenth-century records are spotty even in times of health and prosperity. This pattern continued well into the eighteenth century; for instance it did not occur to Rhode Island's government to bind all its laws into a single manuscript until 1705, and the laws remained unprinted and inaccessible to the public until 1719.

Finally, the RICR are themselves notoriously incomplete -- if Bartlett did not consider a particular fact "important" enough in the original hand-written records he was working from, he did not transcribe and include it. Historians have noted such discrepancies between his printed transcriptions and the original handwritten manuscripts (referred to as Colony Records) in the Rhode Island State Archive. However, this issue is more common the later (and more voluminous) the original manuscripts were. Rhode Island also began having the General Assembly's hand-written records transcribed and professionally printed circa 1750. For the years where the there are printed Acts and Resolves of the General Assembly (also all scanned and available on the Internet Archive) it is useful to supplement Bartlett with those sources.

Another notable problem is the weak indexing of colonial-era government records and other antiquarian sources. A word to the wise -- do not rely on the index to find information! Each volume of Bartlett's Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations has an index, but most of the references to a particular term in the text are not found there. In fact, a keyword may not appear in the index at all despite appearing repeatedly in the text. For example, the index in RICR Volume VI has a single listing for smallpox -- that the General Assembly passed a smallpox inoculation act (see below; note the highlighting of the keyword in the text by the OCR). However, a digital keyword search for pox in Volume VI turned up five discrete instances of the use of the term, including a lengthy obituary for former Rhode Island governor Samuel Ward, who died of smallpox in Philadelphia in March 1776 while representing the state in the Continental Congress, a 1772 resolution allowing a lottery to fund the rebuilding of Newport's smallpox hospital on Coaster's Harbor Island, and another resolution during the Revolutionary War ordering eleven towns across the state to designate smallpox inoculation hospitals.

In any event, working from home beats driving to Providence and pulling these same sources off the shelf or loading them into a microfilm viewer (though the Rhode Island State Archives ARE air-conditioned, unlike my house...) Ultimately, keyword searches are far more efficient than reading through literally thousands pages of irrelevant (and often distracting) text to find (or just as likely, miss) that first reference to smallpox in 1690, 54 years into the records. Software simply cannot make the errors that human beings may, with the result being that digital research is more thorough than would be otherwise humanly possible.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer 2016: Jetsam and Flotsam

             Photograph I took of Block Island Sound from Crescent Beach on Block Island last Sunday (Father's Day 2016)

Such is the nature of a life of being a parent, a teacher, a homeowner cat owner and a fellow human -- there are not ever enough hours in the day! I have several times since my last post contemplated writing a new one but have always been distracted of the above. It doesn't help that I am a bit of a perfectionist...a fellow (and far more prolific) blogger friend has suggested I just write every day and be less concerned with how perfect it may or may not be. Anyway. Time may be infinite but life is not, and being a parent, quality of life and the vortex of teaching take priority over daily blogging...

Now that I am on summer "vacation" I can get back to all the history projects that have been in various stages of limbo since -- in some cases last summer or even the summer before. Not to mention nurturing another creative outlet by dusting off the guitars, saxophones, basses and music editing/composing software on the computer. Another important summer goal is not to fall behind on Season 7 of Adventure Time and to catch up on the last two seasons of Game of Thrones and Veep. And for my inner geek, I should finish re-watching Babylon 5 and John Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy...

And the beach. Definitely going back to that beach.

So, first some news. Congratulations to Erica Luke and the folks at the former Pettaquamscutt Historical Society for all their hard work leading up to the grand re-opening of PHS as the South County History Center! (Love the new logo btw!!) Everyone in southern New England (and Governor Raimondo's former marketing staff) should definitely check out "Cooler & Warmer: Poring Over the Drinks of Rhode Island," the Center's current exhibit (2636 Kingstown Road, Kingston, RI), in the main gallery at the Old Washington County Jail from May 21 - August 31, 2016.

Also congratulations to the Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society for running a great Flag Day program at the Paine House Museum on June 14 that included both the Korean War Veterans and local Girl Scouts in celebration of the 1777 US Flag Resolution. Inara completed four out five goals for her Community Merit Badge, which (after she marches in a parade) will be her tenth Brownie merit badge!

History Camp Boston on March 26, 2016 at the Harriet Tubman House was a great success -- kudos to Lee Wright for once again organizing a great day of public history in Boston. The event sold out for the third year running!

The Unconference approach is such a great format that this year History Camps are happening not just in Boston but in Des Moines, Iowa, in the Pioneer Valley in Holyoke, MA and Denver Colorado! I had a lot of fun giving one presentation on Roman Britain and another on the landscape history of Rhode Island and Connecticut over the last 500 or so years. Now that I have some "free time" lol, I need to do some minor editing and upload both sets of presentation slides to the History Camp website...

Summer reading list...I just finished Michael Wolraich's Unreasonable Men: Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics for the GoodReads History Book Club -- highly recommend it to anyone looking to read something good, informative but not "heavy." Have also ordered Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy's The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire and Annette Gordon-Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. While waiting for Amazon to deliver those in the next couple of days, I have begun reading Riad Sattouf's graphic memoir The Arab of the Future. And I am also re-reading Thinking Like a Historian: Rethinking History Instruction, with the aim of redesigning my US History class almost entirely around Thinking Like's inquiry-based approach. Going to flip my classroom using NearPod to deliver textbook and vocabulary content and for formative assessment, and use the Thinking Like approach to guide the core work students will do in the classroom of interrogating primary and secondary sources to answer these questions:

And last but not least, writing and research. I have a Model Legislature 2.0 grant to write and submit to the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities by their August 1st Civics Mini-Grant deadline. Next stage: find a video production company to help us create the training modules for our website! Louise Oliveira (my fellow statewide coordinator for the program) and I also met this past Tuesday with Lane Sparkman, the Education Director for Nellie Gorbea, the RI Secretary of State, to talk about the trials and tribulations of the Rhode Island Model Legislature program. Great meeting -- nice to know we have a secretary of state who is an avid supporter and promoter of civics education! Then I have several oral history interviews on the agenda for the WRICHS Archive, as well as the ongoing organization of the archive there. I am a good part of the way through writing an article for Christian McBurney's Online Review of Rhode Island History ( about the way Rhode Island courts, towns and the provincial/state government responded to outbreaks of the smallpox virus in the 17th and 18th centuries. Christian also invited me and his blog's regular writers to take part in a new project called "Presidents in Rhode Island" (fairly self-explanatory). I am interested digging into TR's speech at Newport's Naval War College and LBJ's visits to RI college campuses in the Sixties.

And finally, this week I was called upon by the folks at the South County History Center to answer a question regarding South Kingstown's reaction to the Tea Act in 1774. As it happens, while researching my graduate thesis I had created a digital set of town records with an old Canon A630 (God I loved that camera, may it rest in peace!), and I also transcribed many pages of those meeting records into a Word document so I could do file searches. It didn't take me long to find the information the SCHC was looking for. I didn't even have to get out off the couch!

But this brief foray back into my old research has re-awoken my interest in the long-dormant journal article summarizing the findings of my MA thesis concerning the political rivalry between South Kingstown and Providence from 1760 to 1850. This was a project at the top of my "to-do" list after I finished my MA, but instead of working on that for some reason I busied myself with the next several projects on the list. I have been avoiding the thesis publication re-write I think because I was just too close to the living breathing all-consuming research-writing-defense-revision process (horror?), that I just couldn't look at it anymore. I. Just. Couldn't.

But I successfully defeated the snake five years ago this July 27...submitted my revised thesis and graduated four years ago...I think I can to go back in there now and objectively do this.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year, 2016!

HUZZAH! The earth has successfully completed yet another orbit around the sun, to add to the 4.54 (± 0.05) billion or so already completed and Alas! it is another new calendar year. The last few months have been especially busy, as evidenced by the not-much-blogging-taking-place around here (I do post interesting items I run across fairly regularly on Twitter though, @HistoryGardner It is like a mini-blog of History Garden type stuff, so if you haven't checked it out and are looking for some new history content, follow me on Twitter!).

Rest assured, new content will be posted in the new year. Boston's HistoryCamp 2016 is coming up March 26, and I will posting my presentation ideas/drafts here before March (I hope)!

In the meantime, here are some postcards courtesy of the The Compass Point from 100 years ago in celebration of the then new year, 1916, some with cheerful themes and others, somber reminders of World War I. Then entering it's third year, some of the most brutal battles of the Western Front were to be fought later that year...