Archive for the ‘Ex Cathedra’ Category

5,000,000!

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Just a short note today to announce that when I wasn’t looking, The History Blog passed 5,000,000 total pageviews since I installed the counter in September 2009. I posted about crossing the threshold of the first million in September of 2011, so stat-wise we’re moving along at a vigorous pace despite certain setbacks. This time I missed the moment the odometer flipped by more than 100,000, but I figured it’s still worth taking a moment to plant the 5 million flag.

Thank you all so much for your eyeballs and your comments and your hot tips and your kind words and for sharing my nerdy enthusiasms. :love:

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Hasan Niyazi, a fine blogger and even finer person

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

I first encountered Hasan Niyazi’s blog Three Pipe Problem in May of 2010 after he emailed me through the contact form. He said lovely things about my blog, a kindness that I would come to learn was entirely characteristic of this generous, open-minded, curious and warm man, and asked me for feedback on his own even though after less than six months of posting he already had far more traffic than I did.

My review was basically a drawn out version of “wow, what a great blog.” I loved how he viewed contemporary pop culture through an art historical lens, like in his incomparable videogame review A Medici Assassin in a Digital Renaissance: Assassin’s Creed II, his post on Donatello’s David which points out the influence of the piece on manga and game design, and in his riveting recaps and analyses of the first two seasons of the Showtime series The Borgias.

I was also impressed by how in depth his posts were while never feeling dense or requiring any effort to finish. Although my average post length had increased significantly from my early days of two sentences, a link and a blockquote, at the time I still kept things short unless I had a specific assignment like a contest entry or if I’d been drawn down a historical rabbit hole. Hasan’s fearless if-you-build-it-they-will-come willingness to pursue his interests as far as they took him inspired me to take a plunge into longer, more research-intensive pieces a little more often.

It was his passion for art history, especially that of Renaissance Italy and Raphael in particular (we had a lovely Raphael geekout in the comments of this post), that shone through in every post. He was a scientist by education which grounded his writing in a rigorous, evidence-based approach, but there was nothing dry or mechanical about it. The title of his blog was a Sherlock Holmes reference from The Red Headed League:

“As a rule,” said Holmes, “the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify. But I must be prompt over this matter.”
“What are you going to do, then?” I asked.
“To smoke,” he answered. “It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes.”

Like Holmes, Hasan took his time to unravel Gordian knots with deliberation and thoughtfulness rather than just cutting through them, bringing together his scientific background and love of art in all forms to illuminate a subject in a way that appealed to professional art historians as much as to teenagers touring the Louvre. From an email he sent me a few years back:

I had a 15 year old Belgian kid write to me the other day – explaining how he’d been in Paris with his family and on a Louvre Tour. When they passed the Pastoral Concert [a painting currently attributed to Titian but previously thought to be by Giorgione and whose authorship is still debated], the tour guide just gave the standard description about it. The kid questioned him about the attribution to Varro and how the figures are not a mystery at all if you’ve read Varro. Rather than get angry, the tour guide bought him one of those expensive catalogue books and encouraged him to pursue his interest in the field. Wow!! All because he read my article [Titian and Giorgione: ethereal picnic with a difference].

Hasan Niyazi died unexpectedly on October 28th, 2013. To celebrate his love of art history and his commitment to open online access to art historical resources, bloggers who knew and loved him have dedicated entries to him today, the 531st anniversary of Raphael’s birth and the 494th anniversary of his death. It’s a wonderful collection of work that you can find listed here.

The Three Pipe Problem blog archives will remain as a testimony to the brilliance of his intellect, the generosity of his spirit and wide-eyed wonder at the beauty in this world.

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The Year in History Blog History

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Time marches inexorably on, devouring our precious remaining minutes, hours and days like Cronus did his children, and miring us in so many end-of-year retrospectives and best-of listicles that we can’t help but embrace the new year if only for the novelty of it. So it’s for your own good, really, that for the third time in a row I will close out the year with a look back at The History Blog’s 2013.

First a little glimpse into the statistical man behind the curtain. This year we had 1,570,000 total pageviews, slightly short of last year’s high of 1,650,546. That’s actually way better than I expected, because earlier this year I experienced for the first time the frigid wrath of a Google denied. You might recall that towards the end of January the blog moved to a new server. This was made necessary by my unquenchable thirst for large pictures taking up so much space that I finally had to ditch the old one and move to a plan that gave me room to grow.

Or so I thought. In fact, it was a complete disaster, way too small to handle my bandwidth and even the overall hard drive space was larger, it was still pretty damn stingy in terms of file size maximums. As soon as the blog moved, it was taken down by an exceeded bandwidth error and remained down for what felt like an eternity but was actually something like eight hours.

As far as Google’s algorithms are concerned, those eight hours might as well have been an eternity. The high ranking I had built up over six years of daily blogging plummeted resulting in a dramatic drop in traffic. I watched, horrified, as my views per day plunged to levels not seen since the end of 2011, beginning of 2012, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. A second bandwidth exceeded takedown struck at the end of March and that was the end of my dealings with that server company. I moved to a new service (hi Westhost! Love you guys!) in mid-April with unlimited everything and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

Alas, the search engines weren’t done punishing me. They still aren’t done, in fact. The numbers only started to crawl back up in September, believe it or not, and even now we’re tens of thousands of views away from the intoxicating highs of January. I am very much looking forward to the new year so I can draw a firm albeit arbitrary line after the Bad Days and usher in Better Days, daring even to hope they might be Best Days.

The busiest new entry this year was the one about the Seikilos epitaph, the oldest ancient song to survive complete with lyrics and musical notation, sung by Newcastle University Classics professor Dr. David Creese. It got 7,811 views on November 3rd, most of them courtesy of a link from io9. Overall this year the Seikilos epitaph got 13,254 pageviews. That wasn’t the most viewed entry of the year, however. That honor goes to last year’s Hatfields & McCoys entry, which continues to draw crazy traffic with 22,719 views in 2013.

My favorite incoming link of the year wasn’t about bringing in the view numbers, though, which were tiny. It was from a Greek foot fetish forum in which the virtues of Napoleon’s sister’s tiny feet and shoes were extolled. I loved it because it’s the perfect niche audience to appreciate details like the memoirs describing Pauline Bonaparte’s terribly risquée pedicures.

It was a great year overall for the audio-visual arts. Notre Dame got some much-needed new bells for her 850th birthday and on Palm Sunday they made a glorious noise along with the one surviving pre-Revolutionary bell, Emmanuel, installed in 1685. Mary Pickford’s first star-billing film was restored and shown after being found in barn. Orson Welles’ long-lost second film, Too Much Johnson (yes I do snicker at that every time), debuted in theaters in Italy and the US after years of painstaking restoration. Meanwhile, in France, the world’s oldest surviving movie theater reopened after an extensive renovation.

I found the rare sound recordings of Florence Nightingale, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Martin Leonard Lanfried, trumpeter of the 17th Lancers, hauntingly beautiful. I loved hearing Florence Nightingale express hope in the recording itself that her voice might keep her cause alive long after her death. Audio recording technology was so new then, but her instincts were right on the money. We also got to enjoy the distinct privilege of Alexander Graham Bell ordering us to hear his voice. The first and only known recording of Alexander Graham Bell, it allows this great inventor of live voice transmission technology to finally transmit his own voice to us.

Advanced technology revived the music played by the the toy pig that saved its owner’s life during the sinking of the Titanic, but to be honest the music was less important to me than the pig itself, which is adorable. I simply cannot resist an adorable pig.

Nor can I resist a good, solid medical oddity, which is probably for the best because there’s nothing like an ancient calcified teratoma from the pelvis of Roman woman to counterbalance the cute piggies. The teeth alone are just so freaky. How could a
brain boiled in its skull 4,000 years ago compete? You’d probably need a whole online database of diseased medieval bones to even begin to have a chance against it.

The 3D printed skull of Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici wearing her Electress Palatine crown isn’t gruesome at all, at least to my eyes, but it is a fascinating glimpse of where the technology could take archaeology going forward. So many things that should not be touched due to condition issues will be able to be examined again thanks to the combination of laser scanning and 3D printing. It’s Anna Maria’s herculean efforts in saving the patrimony of her famous family, the greatest patrons of the some of the greatest art ever made, that should grant her an august place in history. She’s nowhere near as well known as she should be, since she single-handedly ensured that the art that makes Florence a top tourist destination today remain in the city rather than get plundered and scattered around the courts of Europe after her death in 1743.

Anna Maria’s story was probably my favorite biographical post of the year. Although, if the entry about Michelangelo’s time in hiding under the New Sacristy of San Lorenzo and the astonishing charcoal sketches he drew on the walls to keep himself sane counts as biography, that one’s a favorite of mine too. Teddy Roosevelt’s early years were great fun to delve into as well, because even though he felt he looked like a “dissolute democrat of the fourth ward,” he sure didn’t act like one.

Which reminds me, I must take a moment to give all proper praise to the best political button in history. May all your wet dreams be of Al Smith. Oh, and quick update: the button ended up selling for $8,962.50 including the buyer’s premium. It’s a steal, if you ask me.

The original Batmobile from the 1960s television series was a steal at any price, even $4.62 million, because of its unparalleled awesomeness. Even before it was the greatest of all Batmobiles it was already epic as a Lincoln Futura concept car. I loved researching that because it reminded me of Homer Simpson’s dream car that bankrupted his long-lost half-brother Herb. (Most things remind me of The Simpsons in some way.)

That Batmobile went to a private collector as did the Maltese Falcon (sold for $4,085,000 including buyer’s premium). The debonair 1950s robot Cygan sold to a private collector, but he has contacted me and he is restoring it most judiciously so huzzah! I love the Cygan entry even more now, incidentally, because I had to research the Windmill Girls to write it which means I was able to get the reference to them on the Christmas special of Call the Midwife that just aired on my local PBS station. (Nurse Lee reassured an overdue patient that the midwives are like the Windmill Girls: open all day. Naughty!)

Museums won big this year too. The exquisite lost golden chest of Cardinal Mazarin, the largest known lacquer artifact in the world once used as a TV stand and bar, sold for $9,544,000 including buyer’s premium to the Rijksmuseum. The Royal Museums Greenwich were able acquire the Gibson family shipwreck pictures which will make this invaluable resource available to the public.

My favorite discoveries of the year are both vast and modest in scope. There are the ever so many would-be Pompeiis: the pre-construction excavation revealing 400 years of Roman London, the remains of a 5th century fort massacre on Öland, the man in armor trapped by the eruption of Mount Haruna in the early 6th century A.D. and the slice of Thessaloniki’s history from the Roman era through the 9th century. Thankfully nobody called the
monumental 6th c. Maya frieze found in Guatemala a Pompeii; its enormous size, fine preservation and sheer beauty give it all the cachet it needs.

Then there are the exceptional little local treasures like the medieval coins found buried in a shoe in Rotterdam, the first Earl of Sandwich’s recipe for iced chocolate, the outline of a foot carved by a bored Viking on the deck of his ship 1100 years ago, the papyrus spreadsheet in hieroglyphics complete with headers in red and black gridlines, or the medieval leather peytrel found in Cork castle.

Tiny in size but not in import is the ostrich egg globe that may be oldest globe to include the New World. I’m also partial to the 18th c. wooden railway found in Newcastle shipyard which was standard gauge a century before there was a standard, and to what may be the
first images of Native Americans drawn in Europe, found during restoration of a Pinturicchio fresco in the Vatican’s Borgia Apartment.

It was a good year for shiny things as well. The intensely beautiful Cheapside went on display for first time in all its glory. A modest farm in Denmark yielded a collection of
elite Viking jewelry that was in part reminiscent of the oeuvre of H. R. Giger. Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ golden statue of Diana the Huntress that once perched on one foot over the second Madison Square Garden, a fine vantage point for witnessing the scandalous murder of architect Stanford White, is being regilded after years in the elements stripped her of her original glitter. A 12th c. bishop’s ring that was stolen from St. Peter’s Cathedral in Bremen was found when the culprit voluntarily confessed because his conscience bothered him.

If only the Norton Simon Art Foundation in Pasadena had the baseline honesty of a German drug-addicted thief, then Cambodia would have four of its invaluable statues looted from the Prasat Chen temple in Koh Ker during the chaos of the early 1970s. As it is, they have the two Kneeling Attendants, returned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Duryodhana, returned by Sotheby’s after years of legal wrangling.

Also returned this year were the lost artifacts of two World War II veterans. The ring pilot David C. Cox had to trade to survive his imprisonment Stalag VII-A was returned to his grateful son by Martin Kiss of Hohenberg, Bavaria, who asked for no remuneration at all, not even shipping costs. The greatest tear-jerker of the year was the story of Peggy Eddington-Smith, who finally received the letter the father she never met wrote to her before his death in Italy. I defy anyone of human parts to read that story without crying.

And now off with ye all. Celebrate tonight with much revelry and come back tomorrow to read through squinted eyes and pounding head. Thank you for choosing The History Blog for your history blog reading needs in 2013. I hope to continue to make it worth your while in 2014. Happy New Year! :boogie:

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If you’re seeing this, DNS has reached you

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

According to various handy DNS propagation checkers, most of the world is seeing this site at its new location, but there are a couple of stragglers (London, Auckland) that still see the blog as it was on the old host this morning. They’ll be back in the loop shortly.

Hi London! Hi Auckland! If you’re seeing this entry, you’ve caught up. Any comments you left in the last six hours didn’t make it here, so please do repost them if you can.

Now to secure a nice, juicy, huge-picture-laden story to inaugurate all this lovely new space I have. If a certain request I submitted to a certain archaeological organization gets accepted, there’s going to be a deluge of sweet photography coming at you. :chicken:

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Programming note

Monday, April 15th, 2013

The blog is on the move again. We’re switching to a new host with unlimited bandwidth because two bandwidth exceeded shutdowns in three months is more than I can tolerate. The data transfer will begin shortly. Any comments posted after the transfer has begun may be lost, so steel yourself.

Once the content has moved, DNS propagation might make the site unavailable for as long as 48 hours depending on where you are. In my experience, it has never taken anything close to that much time, but forewarned is forearmed and all that.

Whatever happens, don’t freak out. It’ll all be cool in the end. :cool:

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Please hold. Your call is important to us.

Friday, March 29th, 2013

The blog was offline for a chunk of time today due to an exceeding of bandwidth which remains mysterious. The hosting company has tried to block hotlinking to see if that’s the issue, and somehow this has resulted in none of the images on this entire site loading, which obviously was not the aim. They’re working on it.

Please accept my apologies for this heinousness. If it’s any consolation, I most certainly feel your pain. The downtime was bad enough. The broken pictures are making my palms sweat.

Update: Okay the pictures are back. There are still problems, though. All the permalinks to individual posts return 404 errors. Sigh.

Update 2: We seem to be fully functional. (And programmed in multiple techniques. STAR TREK JOKE.)

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Programming Note

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

The blog is moving to a new server tonight. My unquenchable thirst for large pictures maxed out my allotted hard drive space a few months ago. Since then, in order to upload new pictures I’ve had to go back through old posts to delete media I uploaded and never used or superfluous extras like images I cropped using the WordPress crop tool which creates two images instead of saving over the original. It’s been, to put it mildly, a gigantic pain in the ass. After tonight, I can be a glutton again.

The migration begins at 10:00 PM PST (1:00 AM EST, 6:00 AM GMT). I don’t know how long the site will be down but I’m hoping it’ll be a couple of hours at most. Keep your fingers crossed.

EDIT: And we’re back. Thanks, Fortuna!

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The Year in History Blog History

Monday, December 31st, 2012

I said in last year’s Year in History Blog History that I would attempt to make this a yearly tradition, so welcome to the second annual Year in History Blog History! Just a few days ago I was griping about the endless parade of crappy best-of lists so prevalent in the press between Christmas and New Year’s, but naturally I exempt myself from all such judgment and invite you to do the same.

The big news from behind the curtain this year was a marked leap in traffic. The total number of pageviews for 2012 was 1,647,856, more than double 2011′s tally which itself was more than double 2010′s views. Last year I noted that we passed a million pageviews in September as counted from when I installed the statistics plug-in in September of 2009. I mused restrainedly that given the uptick in traffic we might just reach the second million in time for this review, and in fact we’re less than 100,000 views from reaching 3,000,000.

January we crossed the 100,000 pageviews a month threshold and we haven’t looked back since. The lowest number of monthly views after January was July with 107,888. Stupid warm summer sun with the people out of doors grilling things and writing love letters in the sand and whatnot.

Nice weather didn’t stop people from flocking to the blog in May, though. That was our busiest month ever with a crazy 182,488 pageviews. Not coincidentally, the most viewed post of the year (and of all recorded time) was a May post. Hatfields & McCoys debuts on the History Channel, much to my surprise, turned out to be a record-breaker. It got 7,024 views on May 30th, driving that day’s pageviews to 13,135 and beating the previous daily record of 11,541 established in May (again!) of last year when there was that weird search explosion on the Roman Ship Found at Ostia entry. It’s the most viewed post of the year, doubling the pageviews of the next runner-up, good ol’ reliable Michelangelo’s David.

The Hatfields and the McCoys also drew the most comments ever: 213 and counting, none of them mine. I had originally planned to respond to comments as they came in, something I try to do on general principle, but I didn’t want to say anything until I had seen the show. I didn’t get around to watching the programs I had DVRd until a week or so later and by then the comment thread was so towering I was too daunted to even attempt to scale it. I sure did enjoy reading it, though. The back and forth about the so-called bad language (which turned out to be of the “goddamn” variety rather than the naughty naughty bathroom words I had assumed the distressed commenters were talking about) was highly entertaining.

It makes sense in hindsight because the show was a record-breaker for the History Channel as well, drawing more than 14 million viewers. The raging success of History’s first foray into scripted television trickled down to The History Blog and from there, I’m delighted to report, to website of Pike County, the county in Kentucky where many of the events of the infamous feud transpired. Jay Shepherd, Marketing Director of Pike County Tourism, had emailed me before I wrote the post asking if I’d link to their driving tour page in an entry about the Hatfields and McCoys. I did so and when the entry blew up, I could see the Pike County link was getting tons of hits. It turns out they got so many requests for the Hatfields and McCoys driving tour CD that they sold out! At the time they didn’t have the CD available on the website — people had to contact them via email or phone to order it — which makes the sale count even more impressive. He emailed me: “Our small little town really needs that extra push. So much history here.”

Another post whose real world impact delighted me was my interview with Janet Stephens: Intrepid Hairdressing Archaeologist. Janet’s impressive scholarship and nimble fingers inspired many teachers, students and re-enactors. Neal Quillinan, a teacher at a secondary school in Australia, left a comment that made my day and possibly my year.

A fantastic post and a valuble resource. I used this in teaching my senior history girls about the First Triumvirate and the rise of Augustus. It was most engaging and its scholarly tone made it very much useable on their research assignment. You really struck a positive chord with this one…. one student event wore her hair in Agrippina style to her Senior Formal.

Agrippina prom hair! That totally slays me. I emailed Janet to let her know and she was thrilled to pieces, of course.

While I’m on the subject, be sure to subscribe to Janet’s YouTube channel. She’s been posting new videos regularly over the past few months, and they are each one more brilliant than the last. They all feature live models rather than manikins and one of them recreates the late 1st century A.D. orbis comarum style on a woman with short hair. It’s a must-see.

I don’t know if I can pick my single most favorite post of the year. There are several top contenders depending on the criteria, so instead of just nominating one, I’ll cull a few of my favorites in various categories.

For sheer adrenaline-fueled excitement, nothing can beat the announcement that a skeleton of a male with scoliosis and a cleaved skull was discovered at the Grey Friars site in Leicester, the church where King Richard III was buried after he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth. It was my first liveblog and the first time I wrote a whole paragraph in “holy shit can you believe this” all caps. We’re still waiting for the DNA results that might confirm if this skeleton is that of the last Plantagenet king of England. I’ve read some interesting nuggets in the interim, but I’m saving them up for a post next year when we finally get the big news.

Other favorite finds I wrote about this year include Catherine de Medici’s hairpin found in palace toilet, the bed burial of the 7th century Anglo-Saxon teen girl with the beautiful gold and garnet cross, the new terracotta warriors from the mausoleum of emperor Qin Shi Huang which also gave me an opening to namecheck Firefly, the colossal statue of Neo-Hittite warrior king Suppiluliuma whose arms reminded me of Beavis freaking out because he’s never going to score, the 159 pristine Roman gold coins found near St. Albans that are so shiny and new, and the Etruscan pyramids found carved out of Orvieto caves which saw the lead archaeologist post a comment wherein he complimented me on not writing a bunch of vague, inaccurate hype like so many articles in the press had done. My head swelled three sizes that day.

That’s not the only example of an entry where I feel like the mainstream articles either got things wrong or just didn’t focus on the parts I found interesting. My two favorites along those lines were my story about the Jesus Monkey restoration and the sale of the original Batmobile. Cecilia Giménez’s attempt to restore a fresco of Jesus originally painted by Elías García Martínez on the wall of a church in Borja, Spain, has become a full-fledged meme in its own right based solely on its hilarious awfulness. What gets left out, however, is how the original was a dashed off copy of a cheesy prayer card version of Guido Reni’s Head of Christ Crowned with Thorns, not a masterpiece for the ages. The other articles about the Batmobile left off most of the great details about the Lincoln Futura which from my perspective is totally the best part. Not that I’m putting down the greatest of all Batmobiles, mind you. As I said in the entry, I don’t know what I wouldn’t do to get my mitts on that car.

Other beauties that sold at auction this year which I would gladly shower with gold like they were the Danaë to my Zeus are the model of a guillotine made out of animal bones by a Napoleonic prisoner of war in England, the Beau Sancy diamond, the land indenture signed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the only document signed by both men known to exist, the Chief Joseph war shirt which sold to the ubiquitous APC (anonymous private collector) rather than the museum where it belongs, the green velvet and gold saddlecloth used by Queen Elizabeth I on her official visit to Bristol, the amber gameboard King Charles I took to the scaffold with him, Byron’s copy of Frankenstein, that gorgeous pristine Enigma machine and the original Fahrenheit thermometer which could also go in the “I did not know that” category because researching it explained so much about the oddities of the Fahrenheit scale.

I have a bunch of favorite pictures this year. National Geographic’s high definition pictures of the wreck of the Titanic blew my mind, as did the 15th century Pastrana tapestries in all their gloriously restored vibrancy. The picture of Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn besieged by Sandy was so compelling it was basically the entire post. Worth a thousand words and all that.

Pictures of two far more modest pieces that made me so happy, though, that they must be singled out. One was the Roman coarseware milk pot with the lead stitches. It’s so big and those stitches are just so damn cool. The other is the 15th century piggy bank from the Javanese Majapahit Empire. Those little piggies are so round and adorable I literally reread the entry like 10 times just to enjoy the pictures all over again.

The piggy banks are also examples of another favorite kind of entry: the one where I start off knowing practically nothing about the subject but tumble to it for whatever reason and wind up immersed in research for days. Dutch Golden Age printmaker Hercules Segers is an example of that. I had never even heard his name before I came across it while researching something else that I can’t remember on the British Museum’s website. To find and investigate such an innovator was an honor and a pleasure.

So was discovering the men who built Manchester’s sewers and took those skills to the Western Front of World War I where they built massive underground networks. Although I did know about her very superficially from a class or two I took in college where her epic lawsuit to claim her inheritance came up, researching Lady Anne Clifford and her struggles against her scoundrel father and husbands was profoundly revelatory. Most moving of all was the story of the Fraterville Mine disaster of 1902. Those final letters documenting the miners’ slow deaths as the oxygen ran out made me weep like a baby.

There’s no category that really covers this one, but the entry about the 100-million-year-old spider attack captured in amber deserves a special mention because it was born from a fit of mad inspiration. Posts like that are the reason the ancient Greeks thought the Muses were real. The words just descended upon me and I wrote them. That doesn’t happen to me very often, or, like, ever, really.

So that’s this year gone then. Thank you all for reading and for sending me tips and just generally for writing the ridiculously kind things you write. Here’s to a 2013 filled with more of the same and even greater things. Happy New Year! :boogie:

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The Year in History Blog History

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Mr. Murphy dropped a note through the contact form last week suggesting that I write a Year in Review entry, a summary of the most popular posts both in views and comments, favorite stories, favorite referrals, all that good stuff. I thought that was a brilliant notion, especially since the Christmas-to-New Year’s interregnum can be something of a news desert. Strangely, I haven’t had much trouble finding stories to blog about this holiday season, but I’m still doing the review because it’s a great idea that I hope to make a year-end tradition.

Pedant note: I’m going to refer to the blog as “we” in this entry. This is because it looks weird saying “I” when I mean “the blog” and it looks weird when I say “the blog” over and over again instead of using a handy pronoun. Also I like sounding like the Pope.

Beggar Boy with a Piece of PieIt’s been a busy year here at Ye Olde Blogge of Histories. Starting in September of 2010, viewership doubled from an average of about 20,000 views a month to between 40,000 and 50,000. The major bump can be traced directly to the Master of Blue Jeans entry which was linked to by two bloggers with huge audiences: Jason Kottke and Andrew Sullivan.

In March of 2011, we crossed the 60,000 views a month line and hovered around it until September when we were just 462 views shy of 70,000. November was our biggest month to date with 88,943 views and December will almost match it (we’re at 84,262 at print time) despite the usual holiday decline in readership. The total number of views for 2010 was 386,069. The total for 2011 two days before the end of it is 803,854.

Many of those views seem to be the result of Google searches, often image searches. Sometimes search terms you’d never expect just explode out of nowhere and send us crazy traffic for a day or two. Our busiest day was May 1, 2011. We got 11,541 views (it used to be over 12,000 but the number dropped after an update to the stats plugin), 8,597 of them on an entry from two days before, Roman Ship Found at Ostia.

For some reason that is beyond me, on May 1, 2011, 8,482 people typed “roman ship found” into a search engine and ended up here. They actually started the night before, because that entry got 4,672 views on April 30, 2011, from 4,606 “roman ship found” keyword searches, all of them after 8:00 PM. You can imagine my surprise when I woke up and checked the dailies. I thought my counter had broken.

That freak search event didn’t quite put the Roman ships entry on top for the year, though. It has the third most pageviews with 14,850. The most viewed entry in 2011 was Michelangelo’s David on the Duomo roof, with 32,965 pageviews. That’s also mainly from search engine traffic, only instead of a huge crazy spike it’s from a hundred or so searches for “Michelangelo’s David” every day. Same goes for the second most viewed entry in 2011, Virtually raising the Titanic with 32,192 pageviews. In shocking news, people dig the David and Titanic.

It’s number four in pageviews that is probably my favorite entry of the year, and it’s without question the longest and most varied comment thread we’ve ever had. Library of Congress gets unique flat earth map featured an absolute superstar work of art that appeals to map lovers, scientists, theologians, historians and pretty much everyone else. All kinds of different blogs linked to it. The best part for me was that in the comments several people who had their own copy of the map but had no idea of how rare it was made themselves known. Because of that we even got a link in a local news story about the map.

That was a sweet referral, but my favorite has to be the one from The Atlantic newswire/Yahoo! News. In May I posted a story about an original piece of Frank Miller Batman art breaking sales records. Many moons later, in mid-November Frank Miller ranted incoherently against Occupy Wall Street. Ted Mann wrote an article for The Atlantic Wire about Frank Miller’s anti-Jihadist OWS screed which was picked up and distributed far and wide by Yahoo! News. In the last paragraph it linked to my article about the art sale earlier in the year. Hello 4,499 pageviews.

As far as favorite posts on their own merits, my favorite to research was the one that almost gave me an aneurysm when I lost the first version in an unfortunate log out incident: the entry about Seneca Village, the African-American (later also German and Irish) community that was destroyed in the building of Central Park. I had already spent the day engrossed in researching the details, but the rewrite gave me another day to go even further afield finding sources and maps to flesh out the context.

My sentimental favorite is the Valentine Day’s post about the Art of Kissing, a booklet from my mother’s childhood that I found in my childhood copy of The Whispering Statue, Nancy Drew adventure number 14. The discovery was thrilling to me and the history of the Little Blue Books series turned out to be nothing short of fascinating.

My favorite update is the one about the 2500-year-old brain found in York. The original story was from 2008, but this year we got a big juicy picture of glistening 2500-year-old brains and you just can’t put a price on that.

I also loved following the story of Shackleton’s deep frozen whisky. When I saw the National Geographic Channel special about the discovery and the recreation of the thawed whisky, I felt like I was with old friends. Seriously I was smug as hell about knowing everyone involved. I still haven’t gotten my hands on a bottle of the replica, unfortunately. Pity. It would have made an ideal New Year’s toast.

We passed a million pageviews this year (counting from September of 2009 when I installed the stats plugin). The uptick in traffic means that we’re already at 1,261,577 all-time pageviews now, so maybe we’ll cross the second million by next year’s review.

If you have any favorite or particularly memorable entries, please do comment. Also if you have any questions about this year that I didn’t cover in the review, please do ask them. Also welcome are rows of smilies, generic thanks attached to a website selling prescription meds/gold/Russian brides/shoes, aspersions on my parentage and justifiable outrage at any number of crimes I’ve committed against God and man.

My thanks to everyone who reads, even the Google Image searchers who only look, with much love to everyone who comments and emails me. I’ve received some of the most lovely compliments from total strangers via email. It means a great deal to me and is not an insignificant part of how I’ve managed to scrounge up the motivation to post daily for almost four years. :thanks:

Happy New Year!

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A historical milestone of one’s own

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

The History Blog passed a million total pageviews today. Not just in one day, of course; I mean cumulative views since I first installed the counter in mid-September of 2009. That’s not counting my personal viewings, so the milestone isn’t composed primarily of me clicking on my old stories a thousand times a day.

Thank you all for reading, whether ye be silent observers, students searching for help with their homework, people in the news Googling themselves, and of course, my wonderful regular commenters who so generously contribute your own wit, curiosity and understanding to improving every post. :notworthy:

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