Going historical, going pirate, adding a blog

As some of you know, I have a string of degrees, some even in related subjects, to follow my name when I bother to use them. (I rarely bother, though when I’m feeling snooty, I sometimes insist on being called “Doctor.”) The last one was in history, and I’ve taught it at the college level. For various personal reasons, I’m taking a different tack for the near future. I’ve decided to try teaching history that will be fun as well as educational, and teaching it to adults who want to learn about it, to at least some level. So I’m planning to teach a non-credit course on pirates for the local adult education program.

Flag used by only some pirates, including Bellamy (Source: Wikipedia/WarX)

Flag used by only some pirates, including Bellamy
(Source: Wikipedia/WarX)

Why pirates? Well, they’re entertaining. But they’re also serious history, providing an entry point into discussing everything from European power politics to 18th century economics. Besides, I’ve already tried doing this once. Back a few years ago, when I was teaching a course on European History, 1500 – 1815, to summer college students, I threw in a running course thread on piracy. We used Capt. Charles Johnson’s 1724 book, A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, the source book for most of what people believe about pirates. (Anyone who has read Treasure Island should know that Robert Louis Stevenson lifted quite a few ideas from Johnson’s book, including the name of the pirate Israel Hands.) It actually worked quite well, serving as a counterpoint to the drier material in the standard textbook we were using for most of the course.

Anyhow, to prepare for the course, I’ve started up a new blog, appropriately called SillyhistoryAnd the first (well, second) post is on a visit E.J. and I took to the museum devoted to the only recovered pirate ship and its treasure, the Whydah Pirate Museum on Cape Cod. Go over to the new blog and take a look!

What does this mean for historical content on Sillyverse? Well, if it’s related to courses I’m preparing or teaching, it will be on Sillyhistory. If it’s related to my fiction, it will continue to be here. If it’s related to neither . . . well, we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.

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About Brian Bixby

I enjoy history because it helps me understand people. I'm writing fiction for much the same reason.
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13 Responses to Going historical, going pirate, adding a blog

  1. I am so there! Currently following…and have a question!

  2. crimsonprose says:

    Great news, though you’re still running on later periods of history than my obsessions. Wish you the best of outcomes. And good news on the teaching front too. I did a spell of teaching adults; had a great time. My students still stop me in the street (which is more than most of my former staff do. Probably a lesson there.)

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Oh, I occasionally run into an old student; not many, as Cambridge/Boston is a big place, and most of my students were at U. Mass./Amherst, halfway across the state.

      I’d been meaning to write a bit more about history, and when CCAE asked me if I had a blog to which they should direct my students, I decided to set one up.

      And I wasn’t trying to copycat “crimson prose”/”crimson history” with the new name, but take it as a compliment, anyhow! 🙂

      • crimsonprose says:

        It had not crept into my head. I just took it as logical. But I’ll take it as a compliment too, if you say. Cheers!

        • Judy says:

          You both have a passion for history and detail, and it is such a pleasure to know both of your styles and subject matter. This is one thing that really shrinks space and time with historians on both sides of the pond filling in the outline! You both are inspiring in depth and output!!

          • crimsonprose says:

            I thank you, Judy. I also feel a connection with you, with your love of herons, and mine. Though in my wiriting I make them spirit guides.

            • Brian Bixby says:

              And I’m charmed to have you both here. 🙂

            • Judy says:

              I’ve meant to say how much I love your character name Ardhea and the adding of the silent H to make the heron specie name work for a character. Since I go by just jalovell at lot, I could be Janthina Ardhea Lovell in my next life. 🙂
              I remember in Saipan that the Shinto torii gates were a gateway to a sacred place, maybe even afterlife and that they looked a lot like bird perches, there being a connection with birds and the afterlife. Maybe they were spirit guides? Birds, especially the big herons, seem to command a great sense of mystery in humans around the world and through time.

              • crimsonprose says:

                Yea, cranes, storks and herons, all bore the same name in the early Celtic languages and have an Otherworld association. I had created the name Ardhea AND given the character heron form before I discovered Latin Ardea for the species. As you say, the added ‘h’ works well, but in fact it was just part of the language I’d given these people (a kind of Celtic-Germanic hybrid, with something totally different added in – as explained in the story I’m currently working on, which should be ready to post by Christmas)

  3. Judy says:

    Well, Shiver me timbers!! I kinda knew that you had a degree or two…like maybe a pendant or a pair of earrings…didn’t know it was an entire necklace!! However, its not surprising really and I think you are the kind of teacher I like best…one who doesn’t just give names and dates and events to memorize, but rather breathes life into those dry facts. I look forward to your new blog and being your student!! Will there be a quiz?

    • Brian Bixby says:

      I’ve always had ambiguous feelings about academic degrees, Judy. On one hand, they are an award by one’s intellectual peers that one has mastered the ability to do research, analysis, and explanation/communication of the results in a field of knowledge. YES! On the other hand they are credentials needed to get certain types of jobs. Eh . . . And on the third hand (and who’s counting?), they are bragging claims to authority. Yuck! Here, I’ve preferred to let what I write stand on its own merits, so mentioning degrees seemed irrelevant. Since I’ll be using the Sillyhistory blog for teaching, I’ll probably have to go include my credentials; I know the Ph.D. will be listed in the course catalog.

      The challenge for the pirate course will be including a lot of those colorful facts while still getting through the background history and sometimes dry details. For example, it’s fairly hard to understand the politics of piracy in the 1700-1730 period without knowing about the War of the Spanish Succession. And to understand that, one needs to know about the Habsburgs, which means one has to go back the Charles V’s 15th century grandparents. Uh-huh. me, I love this stuff. But I know it puts many people to sleep.

      So I’ll be trying to live up to your praise of my historical explanations, Judy. And let me ask a favor: try to keep me up to the mark!

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