English stand-up comedian Robert Newman builds his act on history. “The History of Oil” is his very funny, very sarcastic, 45-minute-long examination of British and American involvement in the Middle East. From WWI to the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Newman tackles nearly a century of history, taking time out along the way to poke fun at British Rail, OPEC, military historians, and many, many more usual and unusual suspects.
Digg is running a story called “The best way to learn American history.” As a piece of amateur historical work, the link has a place on Found History. However this posting should in no way be construed as an endorsement, and I’m not going to say anything more except surf at your own risk.
This one has been making the rounds, and rightly so. Bill Turkel has posted a very useful and much needed roundup of digital history blogs over at Digital History Hacks. It’s not quite “found” history, but it’s one-stop-shopping for anyone looking for history online. The blogs on Bill’s list run the complete gamut of history and new media, from digitization to data mining to teaching with technology, and their authors represent some of the best talent in the field today. Found History is kind of the list’s odd duck, but we’re not complaining. It’s very flattering to be placed in such good company.
The past month has seen the reintroduction of at least two classic toy lines of the 1980s. Having finally reached adulthood, having finally attained a certain level of financial and corporate clout, my generation has chosen to mark the achievement with Transformers and Choose Your Own Adventure books. Put in charge of product lines and marketing plans, the children of the 1980s are now probing their pasts and finding Optimus Prime and The Abominable Snowman. At least ten original Choose You Own Adventure titles are already back on shelves, and a set of at least six first-generation Transformers “Classics” will return to stores by Christmas.
For the purposes of Found History, I’m going to chalk these developments up to my generation’s keen sense of history. I will politely ignore more plausible but less flattering interpretations—namely that we are having a hard time growing up and remain helplessly attached to the easy sense of agency that Transformers and CYOA lent us as children. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
The History Boys—Alan Bennett’s play about the meaning, study, and teaching of history in an English grammar school in the 1980s—won six Tony Awards including Best Play, Best Director, and Best Actor at last week’s ceremonies in New York.
Get your tickets soon. The play is set to close in September.
Late Update (6/27/06): History Boys extended through October 1.
Late Late Update (11/21/06): History Boys film adaptation opens in limited release today.
Stepping off a plane at BWI this weekend, I spotted an ad for Saul Ewing, the venerable Philadelphia law firm, across from the gate. Below a headline asking “Will you have the right counsel when you need it?” the ad featured a painting of General George Custer and a quote from an imagined advisor at the Little Big Horn. “General Custer,” the quote read, “I say we attack. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me. Fingers crossed, I went to Saul Ewing’s homepage when I got home, and I was excited to find that the Custer ad is actually part of a larger campaign. (Found History readers may remember that this isn’t the first time this has happened.) Each of the four ads in the campaign features a different “historic” personage and the bad advice his lawyers may have given him, in each case to his tragic disadvantage. In addition to Custer, Saul Ewing invites us to consider the captain of the Titanic, the gatekeeper at Troy, and the chief architect of the Tower of Pisa.
Obviously this is questionable history, as Saul Ewing itself surely knows, but it’s pretty effective advertising and a clever use of history in the marketplace.
Buried deep within the small business section of Hewlett-Packard’s website, this short history of the @ sign has been making waves among techies. A quick search of Technorati yielded more 400 references and direct links, and the article has garnered more than one thousand diggs at digg.com.
BoardGameGeek.com users debate the question, “What are the best games that teach History?” Visit their self-styled Geek List for an expanding, annotated inventory of commercial history-themed board games. Highlights include the expected—Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage; 1776: The Game of the American Revolutionary War; The Napoleonic Wars; and Battle Cry: The Exciting Civil War Battle Field Game—and the unlikely—Maharaja; Thirty Years War: Europe in Agony, 1618-1648; and Pax Britannica.
Late Update (7/6/07): It looks like the link I posted earlier has died. Fortunately, boardgamegeek.com is full of other history-themed geek lists, for example Games to teach WWII history and Games in the History Classroom.
Found on the floor of the United States Senate: James Inhofe (R-OK) explores his family history.