Monthly Archives: March 2013

I Could Never Give a History Paper

I’ve attended enough Medieval Conferences by now, mostly Kalamazoo but occasionally others, to recognize that papers given at these conferences are very different from those I deliver. In fact, what I do would not be considered giving a paper at all but making a presentation.

I’m a pretty decent presenter. When I know my topic I can get on a roll. I use a lot of humor, usually try to throw up some entertaining images and try to keep people engaged. Bill Caraher posted some advice on giving papers which shows me how very far off base I would be and why I have always, when asked (yes, it has happened) if I’d be interested in giving a paper at Kalamazoo, I have said no. My explanation has traditionally been that this is vacation for me and that sounds like work and while that’s a bit of it, of equal or greater importance is due to my knowing that my paper wouldn’t be very good.

Part of this is that for the most part when I present, I’m not delivering an argument to a group of my peers but providing information to people who are less knowledgeable about something. Occasionally this will include detailed concepts, for example in discussing guidelines for developing emergency management capacity within a community to care for animals during a disaster (math combined with a hazard analysis here), but keeping it entertaining, not entertaining through argument, is one of my goals. I’ll echo one statement of his as it’s a peeve of mine. I don’t care what the purpose of your presentation/paper is; NEVER read from your powerpoint. If you’re going to do that you might as well just give each of us a copy and save everyone some time.


Yes, it’s true – I use this image when I give talks about the value of planning (more specifically about what can happen when you fail to plan).

I’ve gotten decent at evaluating the historical arguments of others when I make sure I pay close attention. But constructing an argument myself? I am not trained in doing that and wouldn’t dream of trying to present one to a group of trained historians. I’ll stick to trying to figure out what others are saying and now and then explain why I think an aspect of history is interesting, fun and exciting. That much I can handle.

My apologies for my recent lack of activity. Another period of being absolutely swamped. I have another ten days or so of the same and then it looks as if I’ll have a bit more time.


Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Uncategorized