In a first of our series of blog profiles, we take a look at the postings of Steven Muhlberger, Professsor of History at Nipissing University. His blog, Muhlberger’s Early History, has been online since December 2005, and includes many items related to the Middle Ages, and others involving other history and non-history topics. Professor Muhlberger’s research involves the study of chivalry and deeds of arms, and has written several books and articles, including Fighting for Fun? What Was At Stake in Formal Deeds of Arms of the 14th Century?
Examples of his posts include:
We asked Professor Muhlberger a few questions about his blog:
Why did you decide to start your own blog?
I started my own blog because I was constantly being asked to make announcements about special events of interest students, and there was no good way of transmitting that information. How many students actually write down the time and date of the history seminar being presented later on in the week? Even if they are interested in the subject? There was no good place to put such announcements so I created one. At the same time I knew that a blog would be a good place to post links to interesting resources and news stories with relevance to my subject matter. I was teaching introductory world history at the time so I knew there would be lots of relevant material. Once I got rolling on the blog, I found it to be so much fun that it has been no burden at all to continue. I called the blog Early History because I used to be the only historian here whose interests were pre-1800. And when that was the case I felt obliged to as much for the early history segment of our programs as I could.
Do you find that this blog is useful as a teaching tool for your courses and with interacting with students?
Like anything a teacher does, some things work better for some individual students than others. I know my blogging interests some and that’s good enough. A few have found my main blog to be interesting enough to continue to read it after graduation.
I knew from the beginning of my students would not be my only audience, and so I have never tried to keep the main blog strictly focus on my courses. (I have occasionally launched special purpose logs that are restricted to the students of a specific class.) I consider blogging for nonstudents to be part of my community service obligation as a faculty member at Nipissing University. There are certainly plenty of intelligent people interested in history who are not affiliated with any university.
Many of your posts talk about Nipissing Univesity, where you are a Professor of History. Could you describe the university and its history program.
I “advertise” Nipissing University because I think very highly of the place, and think at least a few readers will be interested to know where I’m coming from. Nipissing University is a smallish university with about 4000 students in the arts and sciences, business, and education. Our History program has grown over the last decade from having five full-time faculty members and the occasional part timer to now having almost 20, mostly full-time. This means we can offer courses in many more areas than we used to be able to, and that makes me very happy and appeals to students. This year we have launched a Masters of Arts program in history, which has eight very good students in it. It is pretty intensive and does not allow a student to specialize in a single field, although of course the Major Research Paper will focus on something definite. We like to think that our students, if they go on to a PhD program, will be able to handle anything that is thrown at them.
Your readers can have a look at our website: http://www.nipissingu.ca/history/
Finally, what other blogs do you read?
One of my favorite medieval blogs is A Corner of 10th Century Europe (http://tenthmedieval.wordpress.com/) by Jonathan Jarrett, who is a specialist in Catalonian history who uses charter evidence to track social and political change in an interesting but poorly documented era of “early feudal” Europe. He explains the details of his research and their connection to bigger issues and the Catalonian landscape in a thoroughly charming way. And he has a great sense of humour.
Harkening back to my days as a world history teacher, I find two photography sites to be constantly rewarding. One is called the Big Picture (http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/) is the news photography site that posts the most amazing pictures from all over the world on a variety of subjects. English Russia is an amateur collectively run site which posts pictures from Russia with English explanations. It’s justification for existing is “just because something cool happens daily on 1/6 of the Earth’s surface.” Hard to argue with that! (http://englishrussia.com/)
I love these sites because they show you things you would never stumble across elsewhere, and sometimes show you very important things about what’s happening in the world.
We thank Professor Muhlberger for answering our questions.
See also his profile from In the Middle