Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Farewell H-Net

As an example of the ways in which problems can be cumulative, and you can make cumulative problems for yourself...

I had become a member of EIGHT H-Net discussion lists...

'H-Net is an international interdisciplinary organization of scholars and teachers dedicated to developing the enormous educational potential of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Our edited lists and web sites publish peer reviewed essays, multimedia materials, and discussion for colleagues and the interested public...'

The 8 lists were 
H-Net List Names
      H-ALBION H-Net List for British and Irish History
      H-ATLANTIC H-NET List on the History of the Atlantic World, 1500-1800
      H-CARIBBEAN H-Net Network on Caribbean Studies
      H-CATHOLIC H-Net Discussion List on International Catholic History
      H-ETHNIC H-NET List on Ethnic History
      H-FOLK H-Net Discussion List on Folklore and Ethnology
      H-HISTGEOG H-Net Network for Historical Geography
      H-MIGRATION H-Net Network on Migration History

The list could have been even longer.  I think you can see me trying to map the interests and research areas of Irish Diaspora Studies on to the very different maps of the H-Net and the (mostly US) academic communities.  One of the tasks I had given myself was to make appropriate Irish Diaspora Studies interventions into these H-Net discussions, as need and opportunity arose.

(A background problem in the study of the Irish Diaspora is a tendency to claim too much, and offer too little - when we have much to offer...)

I will not here talk about all the wonderful work that H-Net does.  I will just note some of the problems I had created for myself by trying to track, and intervene in, 8 discussion lists.  I had given myself a lot of stuff to wade through.  Most of it was geared to the needs of career academics.  Much of it was repetitive - as the same message was passed around a number of H-Net lists.  

Especially irritating was when some student, beginning a project, would send an email to one H-Net group, asking for help with his bibliography.  And send the same email to another group.  And a third.  And our sweet innocents would helpfully pile in - and I would find that I had read the same request and very similar replies in three different places.

One recent example was a request for information, a vague request, about possible Irish involvement in the Royal Navy mutinies of 1797.  This was my reply...

It is difficult to deal with this sort of query unless we are given some idea of research already undertaken or works read.

The theme of the special role of the Irish in all the Napoleonic era mutinies rumbles along, in sources and cases at the time, and in scholarly comment since.

For opposing views see see N.A.M. Rodger, “Mutiny or Subversion? Spithead and the Nore” in 1798: A Bicentenary Perspective, ed. by Thomas Bartlett, David Dickson, Dáire Keogh and Kevin Whelan (Dublin, 2003), 549-64; and Roger Wells, Insurrection: The British Experience, 1795-1803 (Gloucester, 1983) 79-110.  More recently see Anthony G. Brown, “The Nore Mutiny – Sedition or Ships’ Biscuits? A Reappraisal,” Mariner’s Mirror 92, no. 1 (2006), 60-74.

I have found very helpful the references in Niklas Frykman, The Mutiny on the Hermione: Warfare, Revolution, and Treason in the Royal Navy, Journal of Social History (2010) 44(1): 159-187.

Mutinies are of great interest to all of us who study people hidden from history - especially using the Subaltern Studies approach.  But really, nowadays, instead of trying the patience of good-natured people, we are better off just going to Google Scholar and thinking about search terms.

So, farewell then H-Net.  I will still visit the web site to read a book review.  And read it only once.

Patrick O'Sullivan

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