January 03, 2010

History Carnival

Old Scrooge looked out the window and could see men and women smiling, 'Bah Humbug' he thought 'when they learn that the Thomason tracts have left the open shelves of the British library, they'll be smiling on the other sides of their faces!' He scowled into the swirling snow, thinking that at least if the weather makes everyone happy sometimes (as Jupiter said in a poem), it makes everyone unhappy sometimes. He tapped the stony walls of his mansion, and stared gloomily into the streets and then marched to the door of his study. He opened it and saw, he thought, a face on the handle- the face of Marley- no, no, no, for as Hakewill said long ago the eye is always deceived. He turned the nob and entered into his room, papers lay scattered on the desk, that bloody Cratchett- as untidy as a graduate student with a dissertation to complete- had left everything amiss. Scrooge sat down and opened his safe, the gold inside glittered. Into his cold heart came the cheerful thought that Henry I was dead long ago and could not enforce his barbaric punishments for those who hoarded gold- no matter how some historians might like him to.

"Damn that Spirit of Christmas, Damn that White Christmas, Damn that Bing Crosby (who didn't even mainly write about Christmas, though the ignorant fools think he did)" said Scrooge impatiently. In the silence of the house, he heard something- the wind whispering, someone coughing. The air was bad, Scrooge cleared his throat. At least it wasn't as bad as at his plant in Donora- pollution had killed people there but he and his chums had got away with minimal compensation payouts. Some people think you can just do good to get money, write to support yourself, like Christian de Pizan had, but he, Scrooge knew better. The noise again. There was something, he was sure of it. Maybe it was the newspaper man outside, "Read all about it, Read all about it, the ten most important executions of the 2000s", no it couldn't be him. What could it be, some kind of scratching from the fireplace, a mouse? No it couldn't be a mouse. A superstitious man might have believed that there was a connection to Scrooge's business for the day, investigating with a lawyer what he could gain from a seventeenth century will: unfortunately there was nothing in John Giffard's bequests that he could purloin, though he did learn that Chris Holland's great grandfather was a seventeenth century heavy metal fan. That explained a lot about Holland's investment strategies!

No that sound again, what could it be. Scrooge moved closer to the fire. One could always get things wrong- after all all those seventeenth century writers had thought Cromwell had had a fight with Charles I, when actually it was the Earl of Essex and Charles's elder brother Prince Henry and the story just got misplaced. There was something definitely there and it was coming from the fire- sounded like, Marley? Scrooge started- it was Marley, and it was speaking. "You shall be visited" said Marley "by three ghosts- one of Christmas past, one of Christmas present and the next of Christmas Future. Remember what they say, otherwise you will be taken to hell where you will be choked by a smog worse than the Glasgow one of 1909, consumed by fire and eaten forever by locusts- remember Dante and beware." Scrooge fell back in his seat- and began to think of questions to ask the ghost, "Marley, Marley" he shouted, but the ghost had disappeared, disappeared just like blogs might disappear (he thought for some reason remembering an essay that he'd seen about the future of medievalist blogging) before the triumph of social media.

"Ghosts! Everyone knows ghosts don't exist" Scrooge harrumphed to himself. Probably it was a setup, someone wanting him to be sympathetic- like that time Cratchett had offered him a photo album of his family in some war or other. Scrooge remembered that, he'd laughed and sent the idiot away, telling him to do the accounts. Scrooge knew everything on God's earth was right, he went back to his coins and counted them ferociously. No ghost could buy their way past Scrooge, even St Peter would take his money. The shutters banged in the wind. Scrooge buried his head in his papers and suddenly a pale light grew, he raised his head.

A fat gentleman had entered through the fire, "I am the ghost of Christmas Past" he boomed, remember this- he opened his hand and suddenly Scrooge found himself in the midst of a group of soldiers eating Christmas dinner- one writing a letter home to his family. "What is happening" screamed Scrooge, "Where am I?" The Ghost laughed and said, "You are in the past, in the vast caverns of the past and before this evening is out I will show you everything you need to know to reform. You will see a whole Carnivalesque of posts about the ancient and medieval world that will enrich your understanding. You will understand what you are missing and my brothers will visit you too." Scrooge grew silent, his mind could barely cope, "What you mean Ghost I'll discover why the Roman Empire fell and what are the most influential book history tools developed since 2000? What's going on?" The ghost smiled wryly and ushered him on. History you see is always unfinished.

That's all folks for this carnival, there will be others coming up. Sharon needs volunteers so email her at sharonATearlymodernwebDOTorgDOTuk if you want to volunteer. I'd recommend it- its fun and this is a thing which ought to be kept going.


airswatersplaces said...


I found this as you have linked to my blog (thank you). I just wanted to say that this is a very inventive and amusing way of writing all this up. Olivia (airswatersplaces)

James said...

Thanks for the link! and Happy New Year! and congratulations in the Cup, although tradition dictates that we'll have to fight each other with boots and broken bottles next time we meet...

Gracchi said...

Olivia- your blog is one of my discoveries of the year so far- its really good and I'm very impressed with what you are doing which is why I link to you in my sidebar.

James- I've shaven my head already! Thanks- keep up the good work and thank Karen for sending me that multivolume book by Rogers as a PDF, I needed that for a cold evening's reading in Baku!