Monday, October 16, 2006

Maps, I love maps!

I must admit, I find maps sexy. I can look at them all day. Given the opportunity to go into the military, I'd immediately sign up as a navigator in the Navy. Except I get violently sea sick, so that is not really an option. So I thought this assignment would be just ducks-until Schwartz's article on Railroads and Population in England. Now I know why I want to become a cultural historian, not a social historian. I realize this sentiment is anathema at GMU, but no one seems to read this blog, so I figure I'm safe from everyone except Josh. Schwartz created a good primer for the use of statistical data and using maps, but I find this kind of history to be, well, dull. He shows how to choose the proper format of graph or map, and how to set up equations. However, I am currently reading E.P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class for historiography. This book, written in 1964 covers approximately the same time period. But Thompson's analysis is quite different, because he covers such factors as food prices, wages, religious practices, and political awareness. Schwartz may be using raw data and primary sources, but he covers only a few factors. Thompson uses secondary sources, along with personal annectodes and close readings of the literature reportedly read by the working class and the upper class at the time. Who is more accurate? Don't fall into the trap of --"well, Schwartz can show his findings mathematically." Remember, he is dealing with means and averages. If the average American family has 2.5 children--what does that .5 car seat look like? Seriously, I can appreciate Schwartz's approach, and I can immediately see the value in it. Someday, I just may have to hold my nose and use his methodology.
I'll take my family to Yorktown this coming weekend--its the 225th anniversary of Cornwallis' surrender. Supposed to be great. I'll visit Williamsburg and report on the pod-cast. It is a good idea--but is it meant to take the place of live demonstration, or to be listened to at one's leisure at a later time? We'll see.
I hope David Ramsey will adopt me, and I can move into his house--can you imagine all those maps? His site is terrific-the internet tour will fill an hour of your time, and you won't regret it. I can see so many classroom applications for his software. As I have written in an earlier blog, combining maps with computers allows you to show changes over time--and that can really enhance any lecture. Think westward movement, railroad construction, colonization, sea voyages, and you start to see the myriad of possibilities.
Thank goodness for Google maps. In 1998 we did a project in the Czech Republic that called for demonstrating an army's movement over terrain. Our plan was to get a good quality topo map, and put it in World-Builder. The map store in Prague would not sell Americans topographic maps--seems they were still a bit touchy about the NATO/Warsaw Pact thing. So we had to find a frienly Czech to go in a buy one for us. And yes, we did feel like kids hanging outside a liquor store! Now I can get that free. Gotta love this technology!


At October 16, 2006 9:12 PM, Blogger SaS said...

Maps sexy huh? I too love the maps, but "sexy" might not necessarily be a word I'd use to discribe them. But, I am a huge fan of visual history: maps, charts, graphs, tables, and documentaries! I guess I am a product of the visual generation though, so I suppose it makes sense.

At October 17, 2006 3:05 PM, Blogger Epistemographer said...

Ha - I'm *so* telling the social historians on you...


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