Contrasting Two Extremely Different Blogs

For my post on the blogs I’ve been following, I would like to focus on two blogs in particular that could not possibly be more different. The first, Pillole di Storia (“Pills of History”) is an Italian blog that offers very short posts updated daily (generally) on a smorgasbord of topics. The wide range of content spans anything from medieval culinary practices to Marilyn Monroe films.  The posts are not shining examples of good scholarship, as many of the two to three paragraph pieces are speculative or lack any citation of sources. For example, the November 1st entry “L’Uomo di Neanderthal Usava l’Acqua Calda in Casa?” (Did Neanderthals Use Hot Water in the Home?) cites a recent discovery by the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology that suggests, based on the presence of a hold found in a prehistoric habitat, that heated rocks produced hot water at “home” tens of thousands of years ago. The article is disappointing, however, and poorly presented, because it offers no details of the study, nor does it make any interesting historical speculation. It does not even provide a link to the Institute’s site or any other place where one could learn more about this snippet. Other articles are presenting with similar levels of detail. While many  of the posts are amusing, one wonders if this blog could be converted to a twitter account given its extreme brevity and simplistic content. The site does not use audiovisual capabilities very much, so the necessity of formatting the site as a blog is questionable.

A completely different type of blog that I also followed is the Cambridge European History Blog. Apart from the obvious difference in language, the Cambridge Blog posts much less frequently, with new content uploaded only two to four times per month. However, what it lacks in quantity it nearly makes up for in quality. The posts generally consist of excerpts from scholarly work or brief posts written by historians. One example is the October 30 post, clearly engaging with a Halloween theme, which presented an excerpt from Virginia Krause’s 2015 book Witchcraft, Demonology, and Confession in Early Modern France. The excerpt, entitled “Becoming a Witch,” describes the process through which accusation and trial created witches out of townspeople. The short piece is a fun read and topical, given the Halloween theme. One can also learn a good bit about “witches” in Early Modern France from this post alone. However, the underlying objectives of the blog are painfully obvious, as each post serves as promotional material for works published by Cambridge Press. Embedded in the Krause excerpt is a hyperlink (actually appearing at both the beginning and end of the post) to the page on the Cambridge University Press website where you can purchase Krause’s book. This should not be a shocking revelation, nor is it morally condemning of the Cambridge Blog. However, it is worth observing, as the selection of material is not only informed by, but is expressly decided by the marketing goals of the publisher. Even so, the content is good, and worth checking out for those interested in recent and current scholarship European History.

Dan is a second Year PhD student at Northeastern. His research has mainly focused on art and politics in Modern Europe, concentrating primarily on Interwar and Fascist Italy.

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