Reading: The Footnote

February 13, 2013 § 17 Comments

The first chapter of Anthony T. Grafton’s The Footnote: A Curious History traces the development and importance of this oft-overlooked, yet critical piece of hardware in the toolkit of historians and researchers. Raising it above its position at the bottom of the page, Grafton notes its development from annotation and citation in texts from the early Middle Ages as well as its critical role in the professionalization of scholarship. 

          Anthony T. Grafton. The Footnote: A Curious History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997. 

What comes to light is that importance of the footnote, which is often perceived as cumbersome and annoying by undergraduates (myself included just a couple years ago), lies in the need for historians to build their arguments on source material whose location and identity is apparent for their colleagues. In some ways, this reading connects to Booth in that both address the importance of writing for a scholarly community, and being aware of the needs of one’s reader. 

In reading this chapter, note the different developments in the historical profession, as well as the ways in which citation changed. 


Reflections from a Former Student and Current Facilitator of the Workshop

January 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

I took this course the fall after I had already finished both my 103 and my 101 history courses. Through the weeks of exploring the various resources and databases the university has to offer, after venturing out on my own, I realized how much more I could have done. Perhaps that is always a nagging feeling researchers have; there must be more out there that I haven’t found yet. For me, it was eye-opening and made me hope that other students about to write their final project could be properly equipped with research tools that could open up opportunities for greater understanding and far-ranging sources.

As you explore the different databases with your topic in mind and find potential sources, you will be practicing evaluating them for their potential usefulness. Noting what you could possibly use, which lines of inquiry proved unfruitful or garnered results, and writing your findings in the weekly journals will provide a platform for your fellow students to follow your progress and share in your successes and failures. Ultimately, the journals will provide a kind of working annotated bibliography that you will compile at the end of the term. It will be the formal compendium of your work and will help you become familiar with method of presenting sources which you will encounter again and again in other courses.

This class introduced me to several new resources, and the two I enjoyed most especially were the microfiche library and the Environmental Design Library. Being able to access thousands of past newspaper articles is invaluable for historic research. I found several articles talking about my area of interest, housing in Richmond in the post-war period, which illuminated some contemporary attitudes about the new Southern population in the Bay Area following World War II. The Environmental Design Library was full of literature about New Deal housing legislation, which shaped the way development played out in Richmond, even after the war. I had used some of this literature from Doe while writing my thesis, but I found even more detailed and in-depth sources while in the Environmental Design Library.


November 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

This class has been really helpful in helping me identify alternative and more exotic library resources. I had never really ventured outside Doe and the Bancroft for historical research, but actually physically visiting other resources like the Media Center, the Environmental Studies Library, and microfilm helped me realize there are whole worlds of material that I had never really considered. I am not sure what my future holds, in terms of scholarship, but if I do get into grad school for history and continue with it, this class will have proved invaluable. If not, I have become really interested in geography lately, a field in which the ability to dig out information would also greatly add to my success.

This week I found a few good more good books in Doe, including one on the African American population in Richmond. I had read an article based on it before, but it was good to be able to get my hands on the fleshed out work. I have been getting a little distracted going on research tangents pertaining to pre-war housing policy- I’m finding myself wanting to understand the history of the history I need to understand to analyze my project. A tendency I’m afraid is probably not unfamiliar to many of us. I’m going to try to pin down concrete things I need to delve into and focus on those rather than get so distracted.

Strange Victory

November 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

This week I found a documentary of post war race relations made in 1947 called ‘Strange Victory.’ It was made by Barnet Lee Rosset, Jr. who was a unsuccessful soldier but who went on to take over Grove Press and build it into a huge,  influential company. At the time he made this documentary, however, he was quite young and disenchanted with the way in which African American soldiers were being treated after the war, with little access to the benefits of the GI Bill and even restriction to voting. It was co-produced by Leo Hurwitz, Jr. who was a staunch left-wing activist with Communist leanings who had developed several successful documentaries. The movie was a commercial failure, partially due to the post war euphoria of victory and the national mood of optimism which firmly eschewed criticism. I hope to use it to understand critical perspectives during that time period that saw inequalities happening and sought, against the cultural norms, to point them out and do  something.

Priscilla’s Topic

October 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

This week, for our assignment researching another person’s topic, I chose Priscilla’s focus on the United Fruit Company in Guatemala in the forties and fifties. I first searched in Oskicat, and was surprised by the number of sources and remembered how she mentioned a similar surprise when she first began researching. So I expanded my search outside of our usual avenues to include Google and typed in “united fruit comapny 1950s article” and came up with an unclassified CIA document on the CIA website that addressed the 1954 coup in Guatemala and referenced the land appropriation by the new government of US-based corporation assets, including the those of the United Fruit Company.  It didn’t talk much about the company itself, however.

I then went to regular oskicat and searched in the Business section of articles by subject, and then chose Reader’s Guide Retrospective 1890-1982 which is comprised of numerous sources on business. When I typed in ‘United Fruit Company’ I got some really interesting articles from the 1940s and 1950s, including ‘Archaeological Research by United Fruit Company in Guatemla’ from 1946 in the Bulletin of the Pan American Union as well as ‘Expropriation of United Fruit Company Property by Government of Guatemala,’  a September 1953 Department of State Bulletin.


October 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

I had actually never been down into the  ‘Newspapers and Microforms’ area of the library and it was a new treat to be able to access all of that primary source material! I checked out the San Francisco Chronicle in the period I am researching. My aim was to gain, for myself, somewhat of a deeper understanding of the culture of the time. I accessed an edition from June 1945, which had funny advertisements for department stores and articles touting a “Homes Beautiful Convention” which taught housewives about all the new and exciting appliances available to make their lives easier. It reminded me of times I have heard about this in the abstract; from professors or books talking about the huge growth of consumer products, especially available for the home, and the growth of suburbanization, but it made it much more real for me to be see advertisements and articles which were part of that cultural moment.


Oral History

October 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

I found an account in ROHO by Matilda Foster, an African American woman who moved to Richmond during World War II. She married young in Louisiana and followed her husband out here after he found a job and got somewhat settled. She endured the awkward housing situations of the time, however, and lived in the sectioned off living room in her friend’s house along with her husband. There was an opening in the Ford plant and she worked alongside men putting together machinery for the war effort. She talks about her initial cold reception she got from them, but when she proved herself a capable and tough worker and stuck up for herself on several occasions, she gained their respect.
During the war, she and her husband saved a good amount of money. When it was over, they were ready to buy a house and participate in the nation wide sweep of the “American Dream.” Unfortunately, the version of the dream they had hoped was not realized because of the prevalence of restrictive housing covenants which prevented people of color from buying homes in certain neighborhoods, even if they could afford them. Reading her account, I felt outrage on her behalf, but she seemed calm and somewhat accepting of the status quo. Not happy with it, of course, but not in a fury of outrage. To me, this attitude of resignation bespoke the prevalence of discrimination of the time and the sense amongst many black people that it was so entrenched as to be irreversible.