The History Collective

Donald Trump: Tyrant of the United States of America

To be honest, I truly did not think that I would be still writing about Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee as we now head into or careen out of control, depending on your point of view, towards the RNC Convention on July 18-21.  And yet, here we are.  The rise of a demagogue such as Trump is not unprecedented of course, but the fact that a major political party is about nominate someone so manifestly unfit for the Presidency of the United States has compelled me to add my own thoughts about what such an eventuality may mean for the country. Continue reading “Donald Trump: Tyrant of the United States of America”

Who owns the Colosseum?

One of the most enduring symbols of the Roman Empire has just been given a facelift.  Built under the reigns of the emperors Vespasian (69-79 CE), Titus (79-81 CE) and Domitian (81-96 AD), the Flavian Amphitheatre, or as it’s better known, the Colosseum has ignited the imaginations of generations of tourists, historians, archeologists and just about anyone else who has seen the structure either in person or a Google search. Continue reading “Who owns the Colosseum?”

Bringing the past up to speed: thoughts on digitization and its impact

When I was first asked to write for The History Collective, I was unsure what to talk about. I am not currently involved in any groundbreaking research, nor am I in the process of completing a PhD. I’ve been out of the game for a while, so to speak—a casual observer of academia more than a participant. A friend and fellow writer suggested that I produce a piece about digitization, something that I’ve been involved with intermittently over the past 5-6 years. At first thought, it didn’t seem all that promising. From 2011-2013, I supervised a two-year project to digitize a collection of 130,000 Second World War aerial photographs at LCMSDS, an interdisciplinary research center at Wilfrid Laurier University. The images are fascinating, definitely; but there’s little to say about the actual process of digitization. As I recently reaffirmed at another job—this time to digitize the municipal address records for the City of Waterloo—digitization is incredibly tedious work. It’s the final product that’s important, not the process itself. Continue reading “Bringing the past up to speed: thoughts on digitization and its impact”

Trump’s Horse: How the Trump Campaign Satirizes Democracy

By now it is fair to say that barring some unforeseen event, like a national restoration to their senses, or a direct intervention by the Republican leadership, that Donald Trump is almost certainly going to be the Republican candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America.  His big wins throughout the primaries, along with Marco Rubio  dropping out of the race after his disastrous loss in Florida, has swept the path to the nomination pretty clear. Not only has Trump maintained his popularity among his supporters, but he is benefiting from his self-serving opponents who are now jockeying for his favour in case he actually wins the nomination.  Continue reading “Trump’s Horse: How the Trump Campaign Satirizes Democracy”

How the Modern University may go the Way of the Monasteries

The other evening, I met up with a good friend and former colleague from Wilfrid Laurier University at one of my favourite haunts in Waterloo. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening as it had been some time since we had last seen each other. Surrounded by exposed brick and artificially distressed wood, I was reminded of why I loved the academic life so much even though as a contract faculty member I was underpaid and underemployed during my career and often at the hands of the tenured faculty.

Continue reading “How the Modern University may go the Way of the Monasteries”

The Myth of the Barter Economy

The Atlantic has a fascinating piece on the myth of the barter economy entitled (of course) “The Myth of the Barter Economy” (Feb 26, 2016, Article here.). Its premise is based on the assumption that pre-modern societies organized their economic systems on an arbitrary formula of 16 chickens to 20 potatoes is in fact more historical myth than historical fact and that this as with so many other historical economic myths can be traced back to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.

Everything is fine until the inevitable inflation.


Continue reading “The Myth of the Barter Economy”

Vikings: The One Where Bjorn goes Fishing

In the second episode of Vikings, we seem to have a nod to Oscar season as Bjorn, having just set out to explore and conquer southern Europe does his best Leonardo DiCaprio impression from the Revenant, including an encounter with a bear. Although fortunately for the audience, he is spared an ursine sexual assault (that’s a sentence you don’t write everyday). There isn’t really much to say about this story line. Bjorn has no dialogue and all we see him do is fish for his dinner. It may set the scene for reminding us of his fortitude, but there is no plot or character development which is unfortunate since that screen time could have been replaced with more about the drama taking place at Kattegat which is sadly absent from this episode. Continue reading “Vikings: The One Where Bjorn goes Fishing”

A Paris Wedding – A Review of Vikings Season 4, ep 1

The fourth season of Vikings began this past Thursday on the History Network and as with the previous seasons it didn’t disappoint. The visuals are stunning and the realization of Carolingian Paris is a thing of beauty notwithstanding the misplaced hill in the centre of what will be become the Ile de la Cite.

We are currently experiencing a golden age of historical drama and it is not surprising that many of these dramas draw upon the rich source material of the Middle Ages to tell their stories. Vikings stands out as one of the best shows at the moment not only because of the production values and the quality of acting, but also because of the high degree of faithfulness to the historical period depicted. Continue reading “A Paris Wedding – A Review of Vikings Season 4, ep 1”

Happy Birthday…

“Brutus is an honourable man. And if you believe that, then I have a bridge in Londinium to sell you.”

To Marcus Antonius, better known to history as Mark Antony the Latin speaking Roman general (not to be confused with the Latin singing Marc Anthony), born on this day in 83BC.  Part of the original Triumvir, Mark Antony, as a supporter of Julius Caesar, was instrumental in transforming the late Roman Republic into the autocratic state that Augustus would continue during his reign as the first official Roman emperor.

Continue reading “Happy Birthday…”

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