The Lives and Times of a History Lecturer

16 Oct

When I embarked on a journey into graduate school, a wise member of academia provided a simple definition of what I was about to do. He said that getting a graduate degree in History was “learning more and more about less and less.” I thought it was weird at the time, but it is true. As students move up through the ranks, their research becomes more focused until they are experts on a certain subject. Then, that subject is added to the great story of history that is being worked on by others.

My research has been focused on prostitution in mining camps in the American West. I have written a few posts about that subject, and I will talk about it anytime that I am asked. However, it’s not a subject that comes up often in class. The university where I work is small, and there are only three members of the history department. That means that we teach a wide range of subjects. Off the top of my head, I have taught:

United States History Survey

World Civilization Survey

Jacksonian Democracy

The Old South

Expansion of the United States

Emergence of Modern America

World War II

United States History, 1914-1941

United States History, 1941-Present

Emergence of Modern Europe

Latin American History

African History

History of China and Japan

History of the Middle East

I may have missed a few, but I believe that is about it. I didn’t list those to brag or to complain. I listed them because teaching them has helped me have a broad base of historical knowledge. That base has made me a better teacher in my professional life, and it has made me a better trivia player in my personal life. It also helps me answer a question that I am often asked:

If you could live at any point in history,then  when would it be?

My real answer is that it would be a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. However, I have been giving that question more thought. If I could live at any point in history, then this is who and where I would want to be.

A Senator in Ancient Rome – These guys had it made. They had wealth, power and everything that does with that. The lower classes of Rome had it rough, but the Senators were riding high.

Toga! Toga! Toga!

A Hippie in the late 1960s – This was a lifestyle of freedom in almost all facets of life. The clothes and the music were cool. I would just have a hard time choosing between going to Monterey or Woodstock.

Peace, Love and a Magic Bus

A Pimp in the 1970s– Talk about cool clothes. Man, these guys had it. Shoes. Hats. Suits. Jewelry. Only pimps could get away with dressing like that. The music was awesome, too. Oh yeah, there was also a bunch of women around.

A pimp is only as good as his product.

A Gambler in the Old West– A lot of people would choose gunfighter of cowboy. Those are hard professions. Gunfighters invariably run into someone better than them. Cowboys have to push cattle all of the time. I would rather hang around the fancy gambling houses and play games of chance.

Bucking the Tiger

That is the short list of the lives and times I would pick from history. What you choose?

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12 Responses to “The Lives and Times of a History Lecturer”

  1. norcalvol October 16, 2012 at 04:18 #

    Spain. Back when Christians, Jews, and Muslims all got along.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles October 16, 2012 at 04:21 #

      Excellent one. A little more serious than what I chose.

  2. 최다해 gongjumonica October 16, 2012 at 05:16 #

    18th century, regency era because I want to experience their fashion style! Haha.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles October 16, 2012 at 14:14 #

      Ha. It might be fun to wear that stuff for a day or so. I would need a good pair of jeans after that.

  3. javaj240 October 16, 2012 at 05:25 #

    Would you have been involved in Caesar’s demise? I’ve always been fascinated by how they all had a hand in it; at how brilliant that plan actually was. Ironically, my daughter was born, by cesarean section on the Ides of March. I didn’t give her an Italian name because they all sounded redundant when combined with her Italian surname nor did she get her father’s beautiful, perfect, aquiline, roman nose, but she will tell you that she identifies with her Italian heritage more so than her Irish heritage (Alas).

    I dare say that being a gambler in the Old West was fraught with danger. I would imagine that they had a pretty poor life expectancy. If they didn’t get caught cheating, I’m certain that many succumbed to social diseases from partaking in what those lovely ladies had to offer.

    The 60’s were pretty scary, too. I guess if you were lucky enough to avoid the draft and to survive all the “free love” and drug use, it may have been fun. It was a pretty unsettled time in our history, nonetheless.

    I wouldn’t even want to know what those guys had to do to become the cool clothes-wearing, fancy-ride pimps. And talk about your limited life expectancy. Yikes!

    I’ve always been fascinated by Eleanor of Aquitaine. But living in her time? I can’t even imagine it.

    I think that it would have been very interesting to have been involved in The Women’s Suffrage Movement. Assuming, of course, that I was lucky enough to have been born into the upper or the middle class and had married a man progressive enough to allow my participation in the movement. I would have loved to have been at The Seneca Falls Convention.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles October 16, 2012 at 14:18 #

      Have you seen Iron Jawed Angels? It’s a good movie about the women’s suffrage movement. Here’s a historical tidbit. My state, Tennessee, was the one that one that made the 19th amendment official.

      You point out something that I tell people all of the time. History was hard, and there weren’t really any good old days.

      Why is the cesarean section called that?

      • javaj240 October 16, 2012 at 14:21 #

        The Caesarean section operation did not derive its name from the fact that Julius Caesar was supposedly born in this manner. It was called Caesarean because the Roman, or Caesarean, law demanded that when a pregnant woman died, her body could not be buried until the child had been removed. The law also stipulated that a Caesarean section could not be performed on a living pregnant woman until the tenth month of gestation. Ancient physicians were unable to save the life of the mother in such cases, thus the procedure was rarely performed. We know from ancient sources that Julius Caesar could not have been born by Caesarean section, because his mother, Aurelia, lived to be an adviser to her grown son.
        According to: http://www.hsl.virginia.edu/historical/artifacts/antiqua/gynecology.cfm

        I have never seen “Iron Jawed Angels”. I will have to put it on my list. TThanks!

      • surroundedbyimbeciles October 16, 2012 at 14:23 #

        Thanks for the lesson. You learn something new everyday.

  4. John October 16, 2012 at 12:38 #

    I can understand not wanting to be a gunfighter, but you better be good with the pistol if you’re hanging around in old west saloons playing games of chance!

    • surroundedbyimbeciles October 16, 2012 at 14:18 #

      No joke about that. Doc Holliday could do it all.

  5. John S October 16, 2012 at 23:01 #

    There is no better time than now, though I guess Paris in the French revolution 1789 would have been interesting. Athens in ancient Greek times would be good if you were one of the rich citizens and a bit of a philosopher.

    A genuine question for you. What’s is the best book (or books) about the American civil war in your view? It’s a subject I’d like to read more about. Needs to be on Amazon or widely available, given that I live in London.

    • Rick October 17, 2012 at 00:25 #

      You are correct when you say that there is no better time than now. I will give the book suggestion some thought. I want it to be a good one.

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