not_an_expert

Two Admirable Letters

An Open Letter to the University of Saskatchewan by several students

 In the project briefs the university expresses an aspiration to improve the quality and quantity of humanities research. It intends to do this by removing some programs, and merging others. Research is a valuable goal, but to suggest that the problem with specific humanities programs within Arts and Science is that they are insufficiently productive is to miss the point. The University of Saskatchewan is not just a research institution. It is a university for the residents of Saskatchewan and for its students, and should take some time to consider their needs. The study of the humanities is a creditable pursuit and central to the idea of the university, it should be clear that the University of Saskatchewan has some obligation to provide a space, perhaps small but at least well defined, for the pursuit of that study. It is our belief that the proposals enumerated in the recent project briefs fulfill only half of this obligation. The space for the humanities presented in the briefs is certainly small, but it is also poorly defined.

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The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall of Cities

My visits to Heuneburg and Haithabu/Hedeby reminded me that I don’t know enough about one of the great puzzles in world history: why cities spread so slowly, with frequent retreats and abandonments. There were towns in the Balkans before the Indo-Europeans came, but it was almost the year 1,000 before there was a single town on the Baltic, and that was burned and abandoned. Why did it take 5,000 years for cities to spread from Mesopotamia to Denmark, when other innovations spread in a few centuries? And why did many societies which once had prosperous cities give them up?
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When the Bronze is Like a Mirror

In April I participated in a prehistoric bronze-casting workshop with Dr. Bastian Asmus at the open air museum at Heuneburg (near Herbertingen, Baden-Wurtemburg, Germany). I believe that it is helpful for historians to understand the world of things and skills in which their subjects lived. Like any other art, imitating historical bronze-casting requires a range of skills and is best learned by practice.

Das Donautor
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Funding Canadian Universities

Alex Usher of the Higher Education Strategy Associates has posted a series of comments on the operating budgets of Canadian colleges and universities since 1992 (first second third fourth and fifth).  In a comment he explains that his source is the Financial Information for Universities and Colleges survey by Statistics Canada (here).  I have some... Continue reading: Funding Canadian Universities

The Race to the End of the Earth

I recently visited the Royal British Columbia Museum for their exhibit on the British and Norwegian South Pole expeditions of 1911/1912 (no permanent URL: temporary one at http://explore.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/ ).  The basic story is well known in Canada: how two expeditions both arrived in Antarctica in hope of being the first to the South Pole, how... Continue reading: The Race to the End of the Earth