In conjunction with the AHA annual meeting in Boston, here are the sixth annual Cliopatria Awards for History Blogging. Thanks to the judges this year: Joseph Adelman, Aaron Bady, Edward Cavanagh, Jonathan Dresner, Rick Herrera, Lucy Inglis, Ian Lekus, Andrew Seal, and David Silbey. They have done a fine job, making difficult decisions to choose the best work from strong fields. Here are the winners and brief explanations of the judges' rationale for their decisions:
Best Group Blog: US Intellectual History
This well-staffed blog features frequent substantial discussions of books and issues including literature, law, culture, religion, politics and theory. Wide-ranging and widely respected, US Intellectual History is a powerful nexus of discussion and organization within the field and a bridge between American intellectual historians, broadly defined, and the rest of the profession.
Best Individual Blog: Renaissance Mathematicus
If blogs are notoriously fragmentary and centrifugal endeavors, then it's a particular accomplishment that Renaissance Mathematicus gives such a coherent picture of scientific and theological endeavor in the 16th and 17th-century. Calling himself a"myths-of-science buster," Thony Christie convincingly shows the interconnections, idiosyncrasies, and rivalries (the"Royal Rumble") of Renaissance scientists as well as their vaunted individual genius. And yet, if Christie writes authoritatively -- sometimes obsessively so -- the author's sense of humour ensures that the reader is never intimidated. It is, in fact, a light-hearted blog, and that's why it works: the history of science can be taken too seriously, and can be detached from life as it's lived. Renaissance Mathematicus never lunges too deeply into esoterics, and often connects back to the present-day.
Best New Blog: PhD Octopus
Edgy and substantive, this lively production by five Ph.D. students covers historical theory, public policy in historical context, political art and music, sport history, and just about anything else that they think is worth sustained attention. Contributor"Luce" wrote recently,"I think the posts in this blog are enough to justify the historian's use of the past to look with fresh and more critical eyes at the present." But Ph.D. Octopus is much more than commentary: the history is nuanced and the writing leavened by senses of wonder and humor in roughly equal measures.
Best Post: Mike Dash,"The Emperor's Electric Chair," A Blast from the Past, 9 September.
The judges felt that"The Emperor's Electric Chair" wove together a variety of themes, including colonialism, modernity, and the challenges of unreliable sources into what was an engagingly told, entertaining, and ultimately important historical tale.
Best Series of Posts: David Blight, William Freehling, Adam Goodheart, Jamie Malanowski, and others,"Disunion" NYT's Opinionator, 30 October- .
The judges felt that Disunion was a paragon of the post-blogging genre that blended strong writing, deep historical research, and a careful and often poignant attention to the historical actors, both large and small, as the United States fractured itself in the winter of 1860.
Best Writer: Lapata@Chapati Mystery
Lapata's essays are not so much written as they are assembled, careful collages of visuals, text, and quotations always cunningly integrated into architectural unities. Her style always serves her subject: in pieces like"The Reluctant Feudalist," the contrapuntal conversation she stages between writers and readers, past and present, catches so much more of what is ambiguous or fragmentary about her subject that a more didactic or polemic style would ever allow. In"The Stay-at-Home Man," her narrative pursuit of the elusive and mystifying Naiyer Masud is just as appropriately elusive as the author himself. It is the mark of a superb writer that calling her a south-Asian historian, literary critic, visual artist, or narrative non-fiction writer doesn't seem to quite catch the totality. It's the particular way she combines all at once -- with never a comma or full-stop out of place, never a tiresome clause -- that makes her writing shine.