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Jan 5, 2012

The Cliopatria Awards, 2011

In conjunction with the AHA annual meeting in Chicago, here are the seventh annual Cliopatria Awards for History Blogging, including our inaugural awards for Best Twitter Feed and Best Podcast Episode. Thanks to the judges this year: Manan Ahmed, Kelly Baker, Jonathan Dresner, Mary Dudziak, Katrina Gulliver, Andrew Hartman, Brett Holman, Sharon Howard, Shane Landrum, Randall Stephens, Karen Tani, and David Weinfeld. 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 Individual Blog:
The Chirurgeon's Apprentice The Chirurgeon's Apprentice is "dedicated to the horrors of pre-anaesthetic surgery," but this creative and impeccably crafted blog accomplishes much more. Medical historian Lindsey Fitzharris brings the corporeal body into history. Drawing on a range of sources, from seventeenth-century medical treatises to Shakespeare, she illuminates the physical dimensions of the history of sickness, death and dying. The blog brings medical history to a broader audience, with intriguing posts that, for example, set modern practices like blood transfusions and organ transplantation in the context of a history of belief in the body as an instrument of healing, which included cannibalistic practices. Fitzharris' posts are illustrated with striking photographs of historic medical specimens, such as the preserved left ventricle of a woman's heart from 1765, showing the damage caused by myocardial infarction, posted, appropriately enough, on Valentine's Day.

Best Group Blog:
Wonders and Marvels This blog is impressive for the large number of contributors and the level of research that clearly goes into each post. It manages to be both generally accessible and academically relevant. It features excellent illustrations and is a great looking blog.

Best New Blog:
Demography and the Imperial Public Sphere Before Victoria
Melodee Beals generously shares her work in progress using this research-focused blog. Her experimentation with different techniques (often digital) gives readers a welcome perspective on the challenges of historical study. This is an engaging example of an individual historian making the most of social media (Ms Beals also has a blog related to her teaching).

Best Post:
Karen Abbott's "If There's a Man Among Ye: The Tale of Pirate Queens Anne Bonny and Mary Read," Past Imperfect, 9 August 2011.
Journalist, writer, and blogger Karen Abbott at Past Imperfect has crafted a beautifully written historical blog post about Anne Bonny and Mary Read, female pirates who plundered and pillaged, dressed as men, and may have been lovers. Bonny supposedly "silenced a shipmate by stabbing him in the heart" and Read "swore, well, like a drunken sailor." Abbott makes the early 18th century come alive with tales of swashbuckling women, busting myths along the way. She queers pirate history, illuminating the social construction of gender and sexual identity, and takes the history of women at arms from the front lines to the pirate ship. Abbott avoids academic jargon and swearing like a sailor, writing in lucid, elegant prose.

Best Series of Posts:
Erik Loomis, "This Day in Labor History," Lawyers, Guns & Money. In "This Day in Labor History" Erik Loomis of Lawyers, Guns & Money documents significant moments in labor and working class history, moving back through time to slavery and drawing attention to anti-union campaigns in the 20th century. This excellent series highlights labor organizing, strikes, and anti-labor violence with state sponsored union-busting foregrounded. By showcasing the messiness of past labor disputes, Loomis provides case studies to show the rich historical variance of these events and how these "days" shaped later attitudes and policies about American labor. The series is both well-written and provocative.

Best Writer:
Corey Robin
Corey Robin's new blog,, has rapidly become a *tour de force*. Robin joins battle with contemporary issues by way of a deep engagement with the history of political thought. Although he is a passionate partisan of the left, he takes conservative thinkers seriously. Several of them have returned the favor, including Andrew Sullivan, who regularly uses Robin's provocative posts as a launching pad for his own blogging, and Bruce Bartlett, who recently debated Robin at All that, and Robin's words sparkle with a crafty combination of intelligence and wit. He is the quintessential public intellectual for the digital age.

Best Twitter Feed:
The winner of the inaugural Cliopatria Award for Best Twitter Feed is @KatrinaGulliver. Scholarly blogging is a very public expression of the most fundamental values of academic professionalism, as well as great fun: Twitter's microblogging platform allows for a particularly dynamic and open discussion. In addition to participating actively and productively in professional conversations, Katrina Gulliver created and has continued to curate the #Twitterstorians hashtag, which enables historical and pedagogical discussions across the platform, and has helped immensely in creating a strong community of historical interest within Twitter.!/katrinagulliver

Best Podcast Episode:
The winner of the inaugural Cliopatria Award for Best Podcast Episode is Marshall Poe's New Books In History episode from 14 January 2011: "Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People, W.W. Norton & Company, 2010."
Podcasting leverages new technology and capabilities to bring historians' work to wider publics. Marshall Poe's weekly NBH podcasts provide in-depth discussions with historians, highlighting some of the best recent work and giving authors a chance to describe writing process, research, historiographical and contemporary issues around their publications. The interview with Nell Irvin Painter is friendly, well-informed, substantive, intriguing, entertaining and, most importantly, a fantastic introduction to her work.

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