Archive for March, 2014

A Few Thoughts on Baseball and History

Monday is Major League Baseball’s official opening day. The great Joe DiMaggio once said, “You always get a special kick on opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid.  You think something wonderful is going to happen.” I suppose that level of excitement comes easily when you’re one of baseball’s all-time greats.  But Americans’ enthusiasm for the game has been so great that from time to time sports advocates and beer companies have tried to have it declared a holiday!

6208596They’ve never succeeded, but that they have tried suggests the deep relationship that many Americans have with the game of baseball. Pundits (some of them historians) love to wax eloquent about its timeless nature; great-great-great grandfathers watched substantially the same game as we watch now.  But observers also frequently reflect on the ways in which baseball has mirrored the massive economic, racial, and political shifts in American history. The iconic 1989 film Field of Dreams captures the first, elegiac, approach to baseball; the more recent 42 explores the pioneering integration of baseball by Jackie Robinson more in line with the game’s second, more dynamic place in history.

This blog, however, will ignore both approaches.  Based on internet research and supposition, it will simply suggest a particular, and particularly superficial, way in which the “National game” intersects with history: the names of major and minor league teams.  Some of those connections are obvious, some less so.  And if it helps to make my point, I’ll freely draw from teams in other sports! Team names with at least a whiff of historic sensibility seem to fall into a few obvious categories: 1. those named after locally important industries or resources; 2. those named after community institutions and customs; 3. those inspired by actual historic events and personalities.  Here are a few: Continue reading ‘A Few Thoughts on Baseball and History’


A Young Scholar in Paris

Matthew Douglas is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Marquette University and the recipient of the Cyril E. Smith Fellowship for the 2013-2014 academic year

Moving to Europe and walking into an archive left me with a sense of both excitement and fear.    For a young historian, the confines of the archival wall contain the great stories, anecdotes, theses and dissertations.  Entering the newly built Archives départementales, was no different.  In August of 2013, I received the generous Cyril E. Smith Fellowship.  This financial support flew me to France to conduct research in the local departmental archives in Nîmes, Montpellier, and in the Archives Nationales in Paris.  My research focuses on the religious upheavals in France that began in the sixteenth century and lasted until the late eighteenth century.  These disturbances began when French Protestants, or Huguenots, were socially accepted with the ascension of Henri IV, and his famous Edict of Nantes.  The city of Nîmes became my case study, as it boasted a robust Protestant population when Louis XIV abolished the religious toleration for Huguenots with the Edict of Fontainebleau a century later.

The focus of my research concerns the criminal records associated with the court located in Nîmes.  My most dramatic cases concern the Nîmois who joined in the Camisard Revolt centered in the neighboring Cevennes region in 1702.  Many socially prominent citizens met their ends at the hands of the executioner for fighting for Protestantism.   More commonly, the courts meted out less dramatic penalties to Huguenot adherents.  Hundreds were sent to live out their lives in service to Louis XIV in his galleys.  Many others paid high fines, and quickly emigrated.   Other times, the judges absolved their Protestant neighbors, such as on the Christmas Day immediately after the Revocation.  Regardless of particular circumstance, Huguenots took to hiding in various places around Nîmes and continued to practice their faith clandestinely.               Continue reading ‘A Young Scholar in Paris’

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