A More Complex Picture of the Fall of Rome: “The Origins of the Early Medieval State” | History Today

Why study the fall of Rome and the emerging states that arose in the aftermath?
The historian Paul Fouracre explains the problems with the mythic version of the fall of Rome and the aftermath. In conclusion, he feels the need to justify the study of this period: “Most West Europeans do live in states that had their origins in what grew out of the Roman Empire and do want to know how this came about. The task is to write about this in a clear and accessible way that comprehends the complications and avoids the crusty value judgments of old. David Rollason has shown the way forward in his recent textbook, Early Medieval Europe 300-1050 (2012), which opens with the question: ‘why study this period?’ Well, because in its complications we see how the complex world in which we live first took shape. Oh, and it is fascinating.” Rollason’s answer applies equally to all other areas of history. It’s unfortunate that we as historians feel compelled to justify what we do, but the value of history is not apparent to many people.
To read Fouracre’s article go here:

The Origins of the Early Medieval State | History Today.

The fall of Rome 476

The Sacking of Rome (5th century)

“Secret Warriors of the First World War” | History News Network

In his new book, Taylor Downing, writes about the unsung heroes of WWI. He recounts the stories of the spies, scientists, and code breakers who changed the world through their work. “[T]hese ‘secret warriors,’” he declares, “were a remarkable group and their stories deserve to be rediscovered. The First World War was not just a war of trenches, slaughter and sacrifice. It changed the scientific and technological landscape of the century to follow.” Read his summary of the book at:

History News Network | Secret Warriors of the First World War.

secret warriors WWI

Testing Corporations Spend Millions to Lobby Congress and State Legislatures

Very concerning!

Diane Ravitch's blog

Valerie Strauss posted an article about the lobbying activities of the giant testing corporations. They spend many millions of dollars to ensure that Congress and the states understand the importance of buying their services. It would be awful for them if any state decided to let teachers write their own tests and test what they taught.

The four corporations that dominate the U.S. standardized testing market spend millions of dollars lobbying state and federal officials — as well as sometimes hiring them — to persuade them to favor policies that include mandated student assessments, helping to fuel a nearly $2 billion annual testing business, a new analysis shows.

The analysis, done by the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit liberal watchdog and advocacy agency based in Wisconsin that tracks corporate influence on public policy, says that four companies — Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and…

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The Cost of Turkey’s Genocide Denial – NYTimes.com

The historian Ronald Grigor Suny offered a potent lesson, not just for Turkey, but for all peoples in The New York Times this past week. Assaulting historical truth in the service of political ends is nothing new. However, a recent rise in nationalism in places like Russia and Japan has brought this issue to the forefront as a potential destabilizing force. Suny persuasively explains why this is a concern and why Turkey should admit to the genocide. “It is well known that each nation feels its own pain and has difficulty feeling that of others. Yet reconciliation of Armenians, Kurds and Turks — who are fated to live next to each other — will require both an acceptance of their shared history and mutual suffering and a hard look backward in order to move forward. Acknowledging who set the fire and directed it against the most vulnerable population must be part of the healing.” Read the entire article here:

The Cost of Turkey’s Genocide Denial – NYTimes.com.

armenian_genocide protest

Culling the Iowa Faculty

Of all the bad ideas from those attacking higher education this one has to be one of the stupidest! In Iowa a bill was proposed to evaluate a professor’s teaching performance based on student evaluations and “If a professor fails to attain a minimum threshold of performance based on the student evaluations used to assess the professor’s teaching effectiveness, in accordance with the criteria and rating system adopted by the board, the institution shall terminate the professor’s employment regardless of tenure status or contract. ” And “The names of the five professors who rank lowest on their institution’s evaluation for the semester, but who scored above the minimum threshold of performance, shall be published on the institution’s internet site and the student body shall be offered an opportunity to vote on the question of whether any of the five professors will be retained as employees of the institution. The employment of the professor receiving the fewest votes approving retention shall be terminated by the institution regardless of tenure status or contract.”
These people obviously know nothing about teaching or, more importantly, the relationship between teaching quality and student evaluations. Teaching evaluations often reflect the likability of the teacher and whether or not the student enjoyed the class (either because they liked the subject or because it was easy). The easiest way to improve your course evaluations is by making the course easy. I can just see it now. If this was implemented it would be a race to the bottom as professors worried more about making their students happy, rather than educating them! Yikes!


This proposed bill in the Iowa legislature reaches far past the abilities of my ‘word horde’: Senate File 64 – Introduced



A BILL FOR An Act relating to the teaching effectiveness and employment of professors employed by institutions of higher learning under the control of the state board of regents.


Section 1. Section 262.9, subsection 25, Code 2015, is amended to read as follows:

a. Require that any professor employed by an institution of higher learning under the control of the board teach at least one course offered for academic credit per semester. (1) Collaborate with the institutions of higher learning under the board’s control to develop and adopt the criteria and a rating system the institutions shall use to establish specific performance goals for professors and to evaluate the performance of each…

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The Magna Carta Myth – The New Yorker

The Magna Carta has reached sacred status in the U.S., but its status has been built upon mythic foundations. The purposes it has served have generally been positive, illustrating that not all myth making is bad.  Jill Lepore explores this history in The New Yorker. She observes that “[i]t would not be quite right to say that Magna Carta has withstood the ravages of time. It would be fairer to say that, like much else that is very old, it is on occasion taken out of the closet, dusted off, and put on display to answer a need. Such needs are generally political. They are very often profound.” Read the entire story here:

The Magna Carta Myth – The New Yorker.

King John at Runnymede (1215) signing the Magna Carta

King John at Runnymede (1215) signing the Magna Carta

Privatizing History | Patrick Stephenson

“An academic view of history that at least tries to be objective is a bit like a public good. We don’t all pay for it. But we all benefit from it. Because a basic grasp of history is, in my view, the foundation of critical thinking and democratic governance. But if history is a public good, we’re witnessing its privatization. The past has become a commodity that can be manufactured, packaged and sold to audiences eager to hear a good story that justifies their policies and their prejudices.” Wise words from Patrick Stephenson. Will we listen?

Read his article here:

Privatizing History | Patrick Stephenson.


Centuries of Italian History Are Unearthed in Quest to Fix Toilet – NYTimes.com

How awesome is this? An Italian was searching for his sewage pipe, he found instead “a subterranean world tracing back before the birth of Jesus: a Messapian tomb, a Roman granary, a Franciscan chapel and even etchings from the Knights Templar.” Read the entire story here:

Centuries of Italian History Are Unearthed in Quest to Fix Toilet – NYTimes.com.

Davide Monteleone for The New York Times

Davide Monteleone for The New York Times