What We’re Reading: December 23, 2010 Edition

History of FruitcakeStarting off this week we turn to the Google Books Ngram Viewer, a new online tool from Google that allows you to search keywords and phrases in their database of 5.2 million digitized books. The New York Times, Dan Cohen, and T. Mills Kelly have spent some time with the viewer and lend their thoughts. Then, check out a roundup of images: a past and present photo contest from the National Archives, Alaska images from Smithsonian, and WWII Christmas-themed propaganda, also from NARA. Next, two articles look to universities, considering incentives for those who teach online courses and looking at the statistics on undergraduates. Read a number of articles on a variety of topics, including Eric Foner on Lincoln and Obama, a map of slavery from 1860, contention at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, history failing on Broadway, James Madison and the Second Amendment, and professors roundup their favorite books of 2010. Finally, just for fun, the history of fruitcake.

Google Books Ngram Viewer

  • In 500 Billion Words, New Window on Culture
    The New York Times tests out Google’s Ngram Viewer, searching for key words and phrases like “women,” “Jimmy Carter,” and “frying,” seeing how they represent “cultural trends throughout history, as recorded in books.”
  • Initial Thoughts on the Google Books Ngram Viewer and Datasets
    Dan Cohen takes a look at the Google Books Ngram Viewer, which allows users to input a phrase and see “a graph showing how those phrases have occurred in a corpus of books.” He admits his excitement, but also offers ideas for improvement.
  • Visualizing Millions of Words
    T. Mills Kelly spent an hour inputting phrases into the Google Books Ngram Viewer. He presents some screenshots and thoughts about what he found.

Images

University

  • Spare the Rod, Pay the Prof
    AHA Executive Director James Grossman lends his thoughts to an Inside Higher Ed article on providing professors with incentives to teach online courses.
  • Who Are the Undergraduates?
    The Chronicle offers an interesting and interactive look at the statistics of the undergraduates in the U.S., including what type of institution they attend, age, gender, attendance, race, and income.

More

  • Lincoln-Obama comparison still hold?
    Historian Eric Foner speaks on the Parker Spitzer show about the comparison of Obama to Lincoln. See also the transcripts of his related interview.
  • A Map of American Slavery
    The New York Times presents a “Map Showing the Distribution of the Slave Population of the Southern States of the United States Compiled from the Census of 1860.”
  • Custer’s Last Stand Was Only the Beginning
    The National Park Service wants to improve and expand the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, but that’s easier said than done.
  • Theatrical Stumbles of Historic Proportions
    Three Broadway plays that delve into history— “The Scottsboro Boys,” “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” and “A Free Man of Color” (about the Louisiana Purchase)—are getting good reviews, but unfortunately not bringing in audiences.
  • Justice Breyer’s Sharp Aim
    Justice Stephen Breyer turns to the writings of James Madison to explain the Second Amendment. Hat tip.
  • The Year in Reading
    Inside Higher Ed turns to a professors of history, economics, religion, English, and others for “books they’d read in 2010 that left a big impression on them.”

Fun

Contributors: Elisabeth Grant and Vernon Horn

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