Playing with data

I found a useful site for those of s trying to measure inflation rates in the 1960s in Argentina (not an easy task, mind you). Here is an example for the years 1958 to 1964-years in which Raúl Colombo was president of the Argentine Football Association and Argentina was under (mostly) democratic rule.






And here is a chart in which you can select data ranges and use various display features, such as median rate:

AHA: first impressions

(this is the first in a series of reflections on the field of history, digital humanities, and historical questions about identity emanating from the 2011 AHA conference)

Sitting at Logan Airport, waiting to catch a flight back to DC, provides me some time to reflect on an initial foray into the world of academic history conferences: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The first overall impression of the American Historical Association gathering in Boston is one of “selfishness”. This term is often loaded with negative connotations, but this is not how I want to use the word; rather, it captures the mood of a gathering where the vast majority of participants were there to either present their papers, or look for a job.

And that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with it. The point, though, is that in contrast to other conferences (more geared to social studies and education) the mood was stiff, lacked some joy, and there was no sense of a esprit de corps. No, I wouldn’t expect conferences to have a “rah-rah” feel; having sat in sessions with motivational videos and a call to “change the world”, I find such approaches a bit shallow and not very informative. Still, the AHA conference could use some relaxation, or at least a more jovial tone that might put some nervous would-be professors and presenters at ease.

The Good

Most of the panel presentations were rather helpful at this stage of my career. From presentations that specifically dealt with soccer and Latin America, to more odd-ball topics like spelunking in Venezuela, and to very specific themes of generational conflict and regional tensions…hats-off to the panelists who often raised interesting historical questions. The Prudential complex (composed of 3 major hotels with a Mall and Convention Center) was not my cup of tea, but for a frigid Boston in January it was helpful to find distractions nearby when a hike to the North End seemed like a long and cold endeavor.

The Bad

Although the panelists were quite good, I found the commentary of the presentations to be a mixed-bag. At some panels, no commentary was actually provided; at others, the speaker often went longer than the panelists and ate up much of the time for the audience to ask questions; and in one case the commentator’s critique and suggestions were geared more towards moving the panelists’ work to his/her own research and interests. For the AHA, I would suggest providing more time between panels if the conference site often meant walking at a brisk pace for nearly 30 minutes to go from one room to the next. Many attendees complained about missed meals because they could not afford to stand in a long line for food and miss a key presentation.

The Ugly

Very little actually, but there were several instances where I was amazed that a panelist, or even worse a panel chair or commentator, seemed bored or disinterested during the presentations. Attending AHA is a voluntary exercise. A presenters’ nervousness sometimes masked the quality of their research and it reflected the inordinate amount of time put into delivering a presentation. For some, they also had job interviews on their mind. From the perspective of the audience, it simply looked unprofessional to witness obvious signs of disinterest.

On an unrelated note, I went to my first NBA game thanks to an old, dear friend. If the price to pay for a good time at a historic pub was to dive into the hell that is the Boston Garden, as a Lakers fan I could bite my lip for a night. Unfortunately the Toronto Raptors played ugly that night. At least I witnessed local legends like Gino the disco dancer, and the Indian American Society of Worcester singing the Canadian National Anthem at an NBA game where no single player was either Indian, nor Canadian.

Overall, AHA was eye-opening and left me with much to think about whenever I am at the stage of presenting research and looking for employment. In subsequent postings, I’d like to share a few observations from my own presentation on digital history and a conversation that crystallized for me the need to dialogue about new media’s potential to spark a proliferation of historical work, increased visibility, and an honest discussion on how peer review and legitimacy can be handled in a digital age. Another subject worth discussing are the trends that emerged from a variety of panels on modern Latin America, identity, tensions, and social movements.

It’s nice to be back from the dead on this blog…


teaching & learning history on the web

Recently I commented on the possibilities that sports (in this case the World Cup) offers teachers to make history relevant to students, to authentically “hook” them in the material. As educators, it is an often daunting challenge to engage students when you consider that their world is 24-hour information at the touch of a button (or a click on their laptop), instant information, bite-sized presentations, and (if they choose) catered to their own tastes and sensibilities.

How can the perception of History, as a stuffy series of past events, matter with all the distractions on the web? It’s a question that interests me: how can new media authentically engage students in history and expand the arsenal of history educators? How does new media further (not simply with bells and whistles) the teaching and learning of history?

The American Historical Association presents a series of links to some of what their members rate as great websites for teaching and learning history. Take a look and feel free to comment.


the world cup & classroom teaching

Beyond the potential Angela Sutton cites for using football as a lens to better understand South Africa (and its history), the World Cup also offers educators an opportunity to teach history through the match-ups found between the 32 teams. The championship game pits the Netherlands and Spain-two countries with a long and intertwined history. Likewise, previous games were also fraught with interesting sub-plots: Portugal and its former colony of Brazil, England and the United States, France and Mexico (think Cinco de Mayo), Spain and its former colonies of Honduras and Chile…and that’s just the first round games!

If we were to re-visit past World Cup classics, like Argentina-England in 1986, we can quickly use the tensions behind the games to better understand the political history involved, as well as the sporting history countries often share. In this case, England introduced football to Argentina in the 1880s and the two nations shared an often contentious sporting relationship leading up to the Falkland/Malvinas War of 1982 and the now-classic Quarterfinal match-up four years later.

The story is fascinating, and strong enough that it forms a part of my own historical research. For students, the World Cup offers an opportunity to make history come alive in the classroom and provide authentic and real engagement with the curriculum. Even if South Africa, or the continent at large, is not part of your curriculum, the international diversity of the participating teams provides educators with plenty of fodder. Lastly, the World Cup is also an excellent bridge to modern issues such as globalization, tribalization, national identity, regional differences, gender in marketing, and religious tensions. Thanks to Angela for this timely blog posting.