Ratio of American History to European/World History

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Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Pilgrim » Thu Mar 12, 2009 2:28 am

I meant to post this after SCT, but forgot about it until now - it seems to me that the history distribution gives way too much weight to American history. Even assuming that the ancient and religious history is all European, there is still more American than European - compare this to at least a 2:1 European:American ratio in any ACF packet. The only possible argument I can see for this is that we're Americans and thus we should emphasize the history of our own country, but that reasoning seems weak in the face of the fact that there is just way more European history to ask about - it's been going on a lot longer, and concerns a lot more people.
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Re: NAQT distributions posted

Post by Important Bird Area » Thu Mar 12, 2009 2:54 am

While I've edited history questions for a while now, I don't know anything about the relative weights of the various subcategories (other than that they haven't changed since I took over from Andrew in mid-2007). I'll ask R.

Not for NAQT:

Actually, the ACF distribution feels a bit shallow in American history to me. (I was surprised to look this up just now and see that the most recent version lists just 1/1 American and a full 3/3 of European.) When I've put together history questions in the past, I've very often used 1/2 or 2/1 American history; that is, an additional US question where the present ACF set has an additional "remaining" European question..

For instance, the packet my team wrote for Cardinal Classic contains 1/2 US history in the first 20.
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Re: NAQT distributions posted

Post by maxis7 » Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:23 am

Pilgrim wrote:I meant to post this after SCT, but forgot about it until now - it seems to me that the history distribution gives way too much weight to American history. Even assuming that the ancient and religious history is all European, there is still more American than European - compare this to at least a 2:1 European:American ratio in any ACF packet. The only possible argument I can see for this is that we're Americans and thus we should emphasize the history of our own country, but that reasoning seems weak in the face of the fact that there is just way more European history to ask about - it's been going on a lot longer, and concerns a lot more people.
Well, I am not sure about your use of time span / population sizes involved as criteria for category weights. Judging by that standard, there should be a significant increase in questions on Asian and African History. I do agree about the relative over-weighting of American History in the NAQT distribution (with respect to ACF at least). If anything, it should make things more challenging for the Canadian teams at the ICT.
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Re: NAQT distributions posted

Post by Awehrman » Thu Mar 12, 2009 1:05 pm

I tend to agree with Jeff on this one that the number of American history questions in ACF is too few. As a grad student in Colonial America, you might expect me to feel this way, but if a goal of ACF and/or quizbowl in general is to write questions that people who major in a subject will answer before non-specialists, you have to consider what is taught in universities and what history people know. American history courses outnumber all other fields combined. The same goes for American history majors. In graduate school it's still a nearly 2:1 ratio of US history to European. Check out this from the American Historical Association: http://www.historians.org/Perspectives/ ... ts0404.cfm (especially figures 3, 4, and 5)

You might think this is unfortunate, and in some ways it certainly is. As for the notion that there's more to ask about in European than American history, I'm not sure that that is true. While there is certainly more history there in general, it does not all translate to quizbowl. You cannot ask for instance about the equivalent of Millard Filmore in German history, for instance. As Americans, we have been taught and have learned a tremendous amount of detail in American history that cannot be replicated in other parts of the history canon.
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Re: NAQT distributions posted

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Thu Mar 12, 2009 1:14 pm

Awehrman wrote:While there is certainly more history there in general, it does not all translate to quizbowl. You cannot ask for instance about the equivalent of Millard Filmore in German history, for instance. As Americans, we have been taught and have learned a tremendous amount of detail in American history that cannot be replicated in other parts of the history canon.
Does this necessarily result in a stricture on the answer space, though? While we can't ask about Europe's MIllard Fillmore at the same level as we can America's, Europe has had several Abe Lincolns for every one of ours, I'd argue, simply by merit of having been around for longer. So I guess the question is whether the additional depth in which we know our own history outweighs the additional history there is to cover in Europe. If Euro bonus (or tossup) conversion were lower, I'd worry, but has that been the case?
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Re: NAQT distributions posted

Post by Awehrman » Thu Mar 12, 2009 1:31 pm

Sure, that's a vaild point. I'm not arguing that there isn't a huge amount of stuff to ask about in European or other fields of history. I was responding to the argument suggesting that since European recorded history stretches back much farther in time that ipso facto there is much more to ask about than in the relatively short-lived field of American history. The major point is that the ACF and to a lesser degree the NAQT distribution do not match up to what historians at American universities actually teach and study. Whether that is a problem or not is certainly up for discussion. I'm by no means calling for a radical change, but it seems to me that calls for NAQT to reduce the amount of US history to balance out certain fields are somewhat misguided.
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Re: NAQT distributions posted

Post by Matt Weiner » Thu Mar 12, 2009 1:39 pm

I put that subdistro into the revised ACF guidelines based on what I've seen makes for well-balanced packets. I think 1/1 American history is a decent amount; the other things that are guaranteed a tossup and a bonus every game are categories such as biology, social science, and painting (as opposed to, say, taxonomy, economics, or French painting) so it's treated as a foundational category in that sense. Certainly it's open to change and a separate thread away from this NAQT discussion could be posted.
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Re: NAQT distributions posted

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:44 pm

My experience writing/editing history has taught me that an ideal ratio for every five questions is about 1/2 or 2/1 American history - a full 3/3 Euro is a bit high, I agree with Jeff, and I'm inclined to let that fifth question be on whatever you want.
There certainly are more things to write about with Euro, especially if you throw in all the medieval and ancient stuff. It's always tougher for me to find something to write about in American history than European history, despite the fact that I probably know more about the former - colonial history, for instance, is cool but the possible answers are fairly limited. On the other hand, world history can be vastly expanded at higher levels, but it's kind of tough otherwise.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Mar 12, 2009 7:31 pm

Keep in mind that "European History" and "World History" also include Canadian history and Latin American history, which are sort of like American history. And "European History" typically also includes questions on explorers like Cortes and de Soto, who can also be seen as "American" history.

Like other people who have posted in this thread, I also find it much more difficult to find answers for American History than for European History.

As for what I do when I write or edit history:
when faced with a 4/4 history distro, I do 1/1 American, 2/2 European, and 1/1 world, as is traditional
when faced with a 5/5 history distro, I do 2/2 American, 2/2 European, and 1/1 world , as is traditional

Guns of August had, iirc, 5/0 European and 3/0 American per packet. July Crisis had 6/6 European and 3/3 American per packet.
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Re: NAQT distributions posted

Post by Pilgrim » Thu Mar 12, 2009 9:39 pm

maxis7 wrote:
Pilgrim wrote:I meant to post this after SCT, but forgot about it until now - it seems to me that the history distribution gives way too much weight to American history. Even assuming that the ancient and religious history is all European, there is still more American than European - compare this to at least a 2:1 European:American ratio in any ACF packet. The only possible argument I can see for this is that we're Americans and thus we should emphasize the history of our own country, but that reasoning seems weak in the face of the fact that there is just way more European history to ask about - it's been going on a lot longer, and concerns a lot more people.
Well, I am not sure about your use of time span / population sizes involved as criteria for category weights. Judging by that standard, there should be a significant increase in questions on Asian and African History.
I agree with this to a certain extent, especially at higher level tournaments, but in general world history has less things that can be reasonably asked about than European or probably American history just due to the fact that it is much less emphasized in the typical high school education.

For people who are talking about the 3/3 to 1/1 ratio in ACF packets, keep in mind that 1/1 European history is cut for an edited 20/20 packet. It might make sense to move one European question to American to make the editor's job easier, but I think that the 4/4 in an edited packet should definitely be 2/2 European, 1/1 American, and 1/1 world.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by at your pleasure » Thu Mar 12, 2009 10:02 pm

it is much less emphasized in the typical high school education
Setting aside my usual suspicion of basing the canon on the typical high school curriculum, this seems reasonable for tournaments targeted at people who are new to college quizbowl. Therfore, I think it is reasonable to conclude that (according to a "size of canon" standard) the appropriate ratio depends on the target difficulty of the tournament.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Mike Bentley » Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:34 pm

Yeah, I don't get the ACF submission requirement of 3/3 European History. Why is this not 1.5/1.5 and 2.5/2.5? 1/1 American History is guaranteed to make it into a packet, while only 2/2 European History (and sometimes even less depending on the editor) is guaranteed to make it in. I would imagine a change to this distribution would help get rid of some of the repeats.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by vandyhawk » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:00 am

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:Yeah, I don't get the ACF submission requirement of 3/3 European History. Why is this not 1.5/1.5 and 2.5/2.5? 1/1 American History is guaranteed to make it into a packet, while only 2/2 European History (and sometimes even less depending on the editor) is guaranteed to make it in. I would imagine a change to this distribution would help get rid of some of the repeats.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Wall of Ham » Fri Mar 13, 2009 6:42 am

World History at least deserves an increase. It covers such a wide spectrum compared to everything else.

East Asia/South Asia/Middle East has a broad history spanning to the beginning of civilization, with many gettable answers, and don't forget Latin America/Africa/Everywhere else in the freakin world. Often It's hard picking 3/3 different Euro topics to write questions about, but so easy to fill the 1/1 World History distribution.

I would argue to increase the World Hist to 1.5/1.5 and include Canada/Australia in World.

Or at least make the subdistribution 1/1 Am, 2/2 Euro (1 Brit, 1 Ancient), 1/1 World, and 1/1 Choice (not of the same category).
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:48 am

Wall of Ham wrote:Or at least make the subdistribution 1/1 Am, 2/2 Euro (1 Brit, 1 Ancient), 1/1 World, and 1/1 Choice (not of the same category).
Given that the current ACF guidelines ask for 1/1 Choice in the sciences and 1.5/1.5 Choice in literature, this would be a welcome change even assuming the hard 2/2 European-per-packet distro stays.

For what little it's worth, I'd personally prefer a little more American and/or World history, and suspect more American content would be appreciated at novice tourneys not held in Canada. That being said, the quizbowl definition of "European history" seems expansive enough for it to merit some extra emphasis.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Mike Bentley » Fri Mar 13, 2009 9:49 am

Wall of Ham wrote:World History at least deserves an increase. It covers such a wide spectrum compared to everything else.

East Asia/South Asia/Middle East has a broad history spanning to the beginning of civilization, with many gettable answers, and don't forget Latin America/Africa/Everywhere else in the freakin world. Often It's hard picking 3/3 different Euro topics to write questions about, but so easy to fill the 1/1 World History distribution.

I would argue to increase the World Hist to 1.5/1.5 and include Canada/Australia in World.

Or at least make the subdistribution 1/1 Am, 2/2 Euro (1 Brit, 1 Ancient), 1/1 World, and 1/1 Choice (not of the same category).
When you show me evidence there are askable things in Asian, Canadian and World canon that are not dynasties and prime ministers, then we can talk about increasing the distribution in this category. The simpe fact is that people know a lot more about American and European history that World history.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Awehrman » Fri Mar 13, 2009 10:15 am

Or at least make the subdistribution 1/1 Am, 2/2 Euro (1 Brit, 1 Ancient), 1/1 World, and 1/1 Choice (not of the same category).
Since it seems that my evidence that history departments in the US are overwhelmingly focused on American history doesn't seem like it will sway anyone, the above distribution doesn't seem too bad. For my part, I would rather see a more balanced methodological history distribution rather than geographic distribution. That is more social and cultural history and fewer politicians, laws, and battles. Also I think historians would push for a touch of historiography in the distribution. But those arguments have died on the table before. I would also like to see more transnational or global history in the distribution, perhaps as opposed to or in addition to the "world" category. It might help categorize things like imperial history and intellectual history as well as histories of peoples, trade, business, diseases, etc.

With regards to Canadian universities, I did some digging on history department websites of a few Canadian universities (Toronto, Queens, and Simon Frasier). While Canadians have a much more global perspective on history, as might be expected, US history looks to be just behind European history in number of courses. Many courses combine American and Canadian history in classes like "History of the North American West," "History of the Great Lakes Region," and "The Atlantic World" in addition to more focused courses like "The US in the Depression and WWII," "American Society and Culture since 1877," and "20th Century American Foreign Relations." It seems to me that neither the above distribution nor the NAQT or ACF distributions contain enough American history to be considered over-represented even for Canadians.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Matt Weiner » Fri Mar 13, 2009 11:47 am

Most people are not historians; while I was a history major, I took only one American history course in college (a terribly constructed class on American military history that anyone who has played a Civil War tossup against me can verify I remember nothing about) and focused on Europe/Russia. I believe non-majors are required to take only two survey classes, in American and either European or world history, respectively, at most institutions. So, I think the availability of American history courses only testifies to the fact that history majors with American concentrations exist.

I would rather base the distro on what enables all really important subfields to get represented minimally and on what allows for a tournament's worth of interesting, difficulty-appropriate answers to be found. Since European history can be easily divided into ancient, medieval, modern, and 20th century history, as well as split up along national lines, I think it's far easier to fill up a whole tournament (especially at the ACF fall or high school level) with Euro answers than American ones, even if Europe has 2 or 3 times the amount allotted to it as American history.

The current guidelines call for the 1/1 American history in ACF to be split up either by time period or genre; that is, a tossup on something from the 1960s and a bonus on something from the 1880s, or a tossup on military history and a bonus on social history, etc. What sort of division would one want to see if there were 3 questions per packet?
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:09 pm

I think if there's one thing American history questions could use is a little current history that doesn't qualify as current events anymore. Honestly, every bonus I've ever heard on Watergate has been essentially the same, and questions on Iran-Contra are equally dull. There's a lot of important stuff that's happened in the last 30 years that could easily be question material, but we don't see a lot of that because I think people naturally pick 19th century material. Nothing wrong with 19th century questions, of course, but it would be good to see this other area represented more.

I'm actually somewhat agnostic on the current ACF distribution. In fact, when I was editing Winter, I shot for 1/1 American, typically 1/1 European, 1/1 world, and another 1/1 that could be ancient history or another European history question or some Canada/Australia. That seems like a decent balance to me, though I wouldn't mind for the American history distribution to pick up another question somewhere.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:52 pm

Wall of Ham wrote:World History at least deserves an increase. It covers such a wide spectrum compared to everything else.

East Asia/South Asia/Middle East has a broad history spanning to the beginning of civilization, with many gettable answers, and don't forget Latin America/Africa/Everywhere else in the freakin world. Often It's hard picking 3/3 different Euro topics to write questions about, but so easy to fill the 1/1 World History distribution.

I would argue to increase the World Hist to 1.5/1.5 and include Canada/Australia in World.

Or at least make the subdistribution 1/1 Am, 2/2 Euro (1 Brit, 1 Ancient), 1/1 World, and 1/1 Choice (not of the same category).
You can add stealth World History through the American or European distribution by writing about relations between America/Europe and the rest of the world. I call these "contact questions" or "interaction questions". They can include, for instance, a tossup on an explorer that talks about the parts of Africa or Asia he visited, or a tossup on an imperial power written with primarily clues about its foreign policy, etc.

You can do a lot of cool things just by being creative within the current distribution.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Fri Mar 13, 2009 1:03 pm

As for subdistros, here is the way I see things.

I view American history as split into essentially three sub-distributions: Colonial, 19th century, and 20th century. Obviously, these are slight misnomers, as Colonial includes the first few years of the US, and 20th century includes a bit of the 21st century (such as my TU on "September 11" from July Crisis). I think a time-based split is similar to how people usually learn US history in school.

I split European history into six geographic distributions: Great Britain, Western Europe, Central Europe (Germanic-speaking countries), Eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, Romania, Greece, etc.), Russia, and Classical. I think this is more akin to how people learn European history. While there certainly are classes like "History of Europe, 1450-1800" or whatever, I think most people learn it region by region or country by country. An attempt to learn European history purely chronologically seems like an invitation for a headache, especially before the 19th century. Different parts of Europe developed differently.

The split I use for world history is seven-fold: China, Japan, the Subcontinent, "Other Asia" (including Persia, Turks, Indonesia, Korea, Central Asia), Africa and Araby, Latin America, and Australia/Canada.

Everyone probably sees things differently, but my guess is that most people conceive of far more European and World subdistros than American ones. I agree with Matt that this makes those easier to write.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:01 pm

In response to Andy, I don't think the social history/historiology arguments have ever really died on the table. I've probably done as much as anyone to try to find unique things to write about in history that get studied and are interesting. But, I definitely don't think anyone should bend over backwards to try to force social history into quizbowl, that makes for bad questions for all kinds of reasons - if occassionally you want to try that tossup on "indigo" and you do a good job (like that indigo tu did), that's fine, but it will never happen very often - what you'll get far more often is a strained unpyramidal mess. As for historians and historical thinkers and other historiological topics, I've always done my best to get a number of the more famous things into the canon, and there's always third parts of bonuses for slightly less famous but important things.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by theMoMA » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:46 pm

I think having some play in the history distro would be good, so I would support doing what is done with lit and science, and having 1/1 "your choice." 1/1 American, 2/2 European, and 1/1 World, with 1/1 "choice" seems better than the rigidly mandated distribution we have now.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Awehrman » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:22 pm

You're right, Ryan. I probably shouldn't have phrased it that way. I have noticed an increase in awareness of social and cultural history, I just don't think it's as visible yet as it should be. I understand the difficulties. Most people don't have a firm enough grasp on recent historiography to zero in on more unorthodox history questions. I liked that indigo tossup, but they don't all have to be like that. Most major events have had social and cultural as well as political causes. You can ask about the same events but pepper in some of those clues rather than keeping the question purely political. It might be even easier to do on bonuses. Questions don't have to be purely political or social. I think historians would prefer to have both kinds of clues. I think many people have written questions like this already. But I think it is still to often that European history only focuses on 16-19th century political history. US history probably has too large a focus on the 19th century. I adore 19th century US history, but I agree with Jerry that recent history probably deserves a bigger slice. I've said this before but I think that writing under the strictures of a distribution makes people want to shoot for the center of a subject. For history I think the centers for the US and Europe are the 19th century US and 16-19th century political history in Europe. For some reason, those topics feel the most historical.

As a side note, it feels like the number of history players in quizbowl has decreased from when I first started playing in college about 10 years ago. Am I silly for thinking that? I think some of that came from a history player's former ability to steal questions in other disciplines. When questions in literature, science, fine arts, contained more clues about people's lives and anecdotes about works rather than clues about the works themselves, it was a history player's paradise. I'm not hearkening back for bygone days, but I think people who are struggling to fill out the history part of their packets should bear that in mind. Questions on many different topics can be written historically. Historians study scientists, artists, authors, places, images, texts, etc. There's no reason that someone who wants to step out of things political and military couldn't write a history tossup on Mark Twain or Leonardo Da Vinci or write about the historical impact of a scientific discovery or novel.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by theMoMA » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:25 pm

For what it's worth, I wrote a social history tossup for ACF Regionals on kings of Britain named "Edward" that used clues about shipping laws, the great 1315 famine, and expelling the Jews. I'm wondering how this was received.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Brian Ulrich » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:57 pm

Two subpoints:

I'm not sure how much this is known, and whether it affects the discussion any, but NAQT includes historiography as part of literature. It's not its own subcategory within the distribution, and comes up perhaps once a tournament or so in the form of Herodotus or Thucydides, but it's there.

I like the history of science, but agree it doesn't seem to fit in with the science distribution. At the same time, the fact it has basically disappeared seems unfortunate. Could it perhaps be included as part of history? This might be easier to do with NAQT's distribution style, where you can manipulate by fractions of a question per packet, than you can with formats and events that use a packet distribution.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:43 pm

theMoMA wrote:For what it's worth, I wrote a social history tossup for ACF Regionals on kings of Britain named "Edward" that used clues about shipping laws, the great 1315 famine, and expelling the Jews. I'm wondering how this was received.
I thought that was a pretty good question; I got it on the expulsion of Jews clue, which is something that Edward I was quite well known for and it seemed to come in about the right part of the question. That's a very good example of a question that combines the necessity of having a uniquely identifiable answer with the kinds of information that one might encounter in a social history context.

A long time ago (probably 2004 or 2005), I wrote a tossup about "emancipating the serfs" and I've seen similar questions on abolition of slavery and such. That's another possible direction for social history questions to take.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by maxis7 » Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:44 pm

theMoMA wrote:For what it's worth, I wrote a social history tossup for ACF Regionals on kings of Britain named "Edward" that used clues about shipping laws, the great 1315 famine, and expelling the Jews. I'm wondering how this was received.
I liked that particular question. I learnt some new stuff (and also looked up the Little Ice Age later) since I only got the question after the penultimate clue "The fifth English monarch of this name" pretty much narrowed it down to an Edward or a Henry. I think clues about stuff other than the oft repeated battles, treaties and land acquisitions keep tossups interesting while still utilizing well-established answer choices.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:44 pm

Brian Ulrich wrote:I like the history of science, but agree it doesn't seem to fit in with the science distribution. At the same time, the fact it has basically disappeared seems unfortunate. Could it perhaps be included as part of history? This might be easier to do with NAQT's distribution style, where you can manipulate by fractions of a question per packet, than you can with formats and events that use a packet distribution.
Can we get a coherent conception of what constitutes history of science and what kind of questions would be in this category?
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by theMoMA » Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:39 pm

Jerry, I think that the current quizbowl underrates knowledge about scientific texts, inventors, and older scientific theories. I wouldn't mind hearing a handful of questions per tournament about the Edison/Tesla rivalry or phlogiston theory or similar stuff come up occasionally (perhaps as a part of the 1/1 other history that I've been promoting!). While that kind of stuff isn't important to science, and probably shouldn't come up in the science distribution (or only occasionally, as a part of the "your choice" thing alongside "real" science), it is legitimate academic knowledge that is, I would argue, wrongly excluded from quizbowl.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by mujason » Fri Mar 13, 2009 10:24 pm

I took a History of Science 1550-1800 class my sophomore year at Mizzou; it was quite interesting. Textbooks it used included Thomas Kuhn's ~Structures of Scientific Revolutions~ and ~The Copernican Revolution~, E. A. Burtt's ~The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science~, Richard Westfall's ~The Construction of Modern Science~ and Thomas Hankins' ~Science and the Enlightenment~ (from the Cambridge History of Science Series), and Richard Olson's ~Science Deified and Science Defied~. So yes, there are plenty of interesting items and good sources with which to write history of science questions.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sat Mar 14, 2009 11:39 am

Oh, one more thing.

I noticed last year that underlying Andy's argument for more social history is his argument that actual historians should be advantaged on QB history. Since writing social history can be difficult, I wondered if there were other ways of advantaging actual historians. I know very little about academic history -- I've only taken 1-2 actual history classes over the course of my academic career, and most of what I know about history comes from reading secondary sources during my spare time -- but I do know that it emphasizes primary sources. Non-historians probably don't read primary sources. I know that I virtually never read primary sources when I am reading history for fun -- since all I am interested in is learning facts, I find it far more efficient to read secondary sources where all the stuff from all the primary sources has been vetted and combined.

But for July Crisis, I tried to put 1-2 clues at the beginning of tossups that came from primary sources. My thinking was that this would give an advantage to actual historians, regardless of the fact that the TU answer was a dead white man or whatever.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Sargon » Sat Mar 14, 2009 2:27 pm

A 1/1 ancient history distribution at the expense of American history might not be bad. There are plenty of kings and empires, which make good tossup answers (if not the best history per say) as they are concrete things, and the answer space can be easily expanded without making people go "what on earth was that" when they hear the answer. I appreciate the attempt to increase other world history, but I have rarely seen this done well. Usually it degenerates into a set of canonical things, like African empires, which are horribly overrepresented, while things like Chinese emperors who should be tossup-able only appear in broad dynasty questions.

I'm not a fan of introducing historiography into the canon, on most secondary literature. While it rewards people who have been formally trained in an area, it penalizes people who are self taught, who may not actually know less on a given topic, but simply different things. Thus,if one wrote an Enuma Elish tossup mentioning the authors of recent editions, like Lambert and Talon, I would be priveledged not for my knowledge of the poem (which I don't actually know that well), but for the fact I had taken a class on it where we used those editions. Likewise, my knowing that van de Mieroop recently wrote a biography of Hammurabi should not help me unless I have read it and know more than the name of the author (which I have not).

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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sat Mar 14, 2009 3:09 pm

Who in quizbowl is a proper academic historian, apart from Andy, Kyle Haddad-Fonda, and Jeff Hoppes? Anecdotally, I'd say that most players noted for knowing/writing history are "hobbyists" who primarily do something else.

Contrast this with science, where non-scientist science players are probably far rarer.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by rylltraka » Sat Mar 14, 2009 5:04 pm

I would suppose that I am also included in that category of academic historians, but I am not known for writing history and don't do it beyond packet submissions.

While I appreciate the idea of incorporating historiography into the canon, I don't think it should play anything more than a minimal role. Simply put, the addition of any but the most famous of historians (Edward Gibbon, Shirer for the Third Reich)into questions at any but the highest level would probably result in little actual buzzing on those questions. Maybe it'd be fine for opening clues.
Perhaps I'm wrong on this; I do classical lit/ancient history, but do the names Ramsay Mcdonald, Luttwak, Mommsen, Willamowitz, E.R. Dodds, Mary Beard, Anne Carson, Froma Zeitlin, Amy Richlin, Helene Foley, Anthony Birley, Edmund Fraenkel, Lattimore . . . mean much to anyone but me (these are the most famous people I can think of in these fields)? I think academic history's too specialized to be much use in an expanded canon, considering there are planty more fields larger than mine to be mined.

I'd also like to keep American history where it is at 2/2 per 5/5. We are Americans; we know our history better and in more detail than other histories; quizbowl is a game based on what people know and want to hear.

Also, I'd benefit personally if ancient history would be enlarged, but I think it's too narrow a direction, with all the other history out there, to deserve more than .5/.5.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Sargon » Sat Mar 14, 2009 5:58 pm

If you count Assyriology as Academic history, then I would be one, but I agree there are hardly any true historian quizbowl players. I would suspect this is because history is relatively easy to pick up, whereas other subjects, particularly science and literature have a much higher barrier of entry. If you read closely an encylopedia article or two on a given historical thing, or listen to a bunch of questions on it, you will be all but unbeatable except by the best players on well written questions. With literature, people who have actually read the works will almost always hav an advantage, and with science one would usually need a good deal of background to process what is going on.

I agree American history should be well represented as the people playing U.S. quizbowl are for the most part American; were this Chinese quizbowl, one would expect at least 2/2 Chinese history. One might point out the literature canon justly emphasizes English Language works, as English-speaking quizbowlers are more likely to have read them.

The answer space for ancient history is pretty broad. I think .5/.5/ classical history and .5/.5 preclassical would work quite well. There is plenty of classical history (and a good number of quizbwolers who are familiar with it.), and it is certainly important. In pre-classical you have fewer answers, but you do have a space of several thousand years towork with. Mesopotamia and its neighbors, Egypt, and Shang and Zhou China could easily fill out that distribution, giving each a reasonable representation when compared with other periods. Beyond that might be excessive, but as it stands Mesopotamian and Egyptian history are painfully underrepresented; in the former case only Hammurabi, Sargon, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadrezzar II and maybe one or two others come up with any regularity for a 3,000 year period of history.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Awehrman » Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:22 pm

It may well be that there are fewer historians now. My brother Mike is/was quizbowl's only medievalist, but he has not been terribly active the last couple years and will be graduating. Seth Kendall graduated a couple years ago. I'm struggling to think of others.

A couple of other thoughts: I'm no classicist but I don't think a tossup on Theodor Mommsen would be out of bounds at an upper level event. Of the others I know of Mary Beard and a couple of the others. They wouldn't have to be answers, but could be mentioned as part of early clues. If you made a list of names or titles from early clues of ACF nationals questions, I think they would also appear similarly obscure on their own. As with other areas, American historiography is probably the most accessible followed by European.

Andrew and Jason did a good job with describing some of the possibilities in the history of science, but I might be able to draw it out further since that's partly what I study. Broadly historians of science try to make historical sense out of how various sciences came about, the basis for their authority, the ethical and political decisions surrounding innovation, and how those things relate to larger historical trends. It's a growing field in history, and there's quite a lot to draw from. Two of the last three Pulitzer prize winners in history (Polio and What Hath God Wrought) are largely histories of science (although the latter is more broad). One of my committee members has written books on the history of the metric system and of America's obsession with the lie detector. The history of medicine is pretty rich too (I wrote the tossup for Bruce's tournament on smallpox inoculation, but there's a lot more potential there). NAQT may be more predisposed to ask about these sorts of things with its miscellaneous categories, but if tournaments adopt a "your choice" portion of the history distribution, history of science would be a welcome addition.

I liked what Bruce did at his most recent history event by adding in clues from primary sources. I think those did advantage knowledgeable history players and added interesting clues to boot.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by AlphaQuizBowler » Sun Mar 15, 2009 4:29 pm

theMoMA wrote:Jerry, I think that the current quizbowl underrates knowledge about scientific texts, inventors, and older scientific theories. I wouldn't mind hearing a handful of questions per tournament about the Edison/Tesla rivalry or phlogiston theory or similar stuff come up occasionally (perhaps as a part of the 1/1 other history that I've been promoting!). While that kind of stuff isn't important to science, and probably shouldn't come up in the science distribution (or only occasionally, as a part of the "your choice" thing alongside "real" science), it is legitimate academic knowledge that is, I would argue, wrongly excluded from quizbowl.
As victim of a near-impossible "caloric theory" tossup from this year's Berry High School tournament, I would caution about using older theories in terms of answerability. Point is, we don't learn about phlogiston theory in school because it isn't accurate.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Sun Mar 15, 2009 5:01 pm

AlphaQuizBowler wrote: As victim of a near-impossible "caloric theory" tossup from this year's Berry High School tournament, I would caution about using older theories in terms of answerability. Point is, we don't learn about phlogiston theory in school because it isn't accurate.
Well, I think Andrew's argument is that people are in fact learning about them... in a history context. If this is so (I don't know), then it's not unreasonable to ask about them. I'd caution to make sure that the questions are also about the theories in a history context, because surely these people studying them in history classes (if they exist) aren't studying the nonscience nitty-gritty, and no one else is, either. (For this purpose, maybe an "old and disproved theories of heat/fire/something" tossup would be better, especially because there may be more books and articles written about multiple of these theories than just one.)
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sun Mar 15, 2009 5:04 pm

Why not just write about those kinds of things in the "Your choice" distribution? It seems to me like there is hardly enough there to warrant a whole subdistribution, but perhaps enough to warrant a question or 2 per tournament.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Sun Mar 15, 2009 5:06 pm

Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:Why not just write about those kinds of things in the "Your choice" distribution? It seems to me like there is hardly enough there to warrant a whole subdistribution, but perhaps enough to warrant a question or 2 per tournament.
I prefer this strategy, for the record.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Cheynem » Sun Mar 15, 2009 5:09 pm

I have a master's degree in history (specializing in American), so I welcome a mild dose of historiography. Besides the Beards in the American canon, there's Frederick Jackson Turner, William Appleman Williams, Richard Hofstadter, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and MAYBE guys like Henry Nash Smith, Leo Marx, etc. (as more introductory clues, not obviously toss-up subjects). Barbara Tuchman and some of her more famous works should be game for European history.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Sun Mar 15, 2009 5:38 pm

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I get the sense that at least some of this history of science material is already asked about (and fits well) in the philosophy distribution. (Especially when you're dealing with pre-Enlightenment thinkers like Aristotle, Averroes, Francis Bacon, etc...)
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by naturalistic phallacy » Sun Mar 15, 2009 5:59 pm

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:Correct me if I'm wrong, but I get the sense that at least some of this history of science material is already asked about (and fits well) in the philosophy distribution. (Especially when you're dealing with pre-Enlightenment thinkers like Aristotle, Averroes, Francis Bacon, etc...)
Eh, somewhat. Tossups on people with history of science clues is cool, but I wouldn't like to see philosophy occupied with a tossup on Aristotelian biology. I would save that for "your choice"
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sun Mar 15, 2009 6:04 pm

You can backdoor science history via the "philosophy of science" subdistro of the Philosophy distro (which is, of course, itself a subdistro of the RMP distro). Guys like Popper, Feyerabend, Lakatos, etc. discuss historical scientists and mathematicians in their works.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Important Bird Area » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:02 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:The current guidelines call for the 1/1 American history in ACF to be split up either by time period or genre; that is, a tossup on something from the 1960s and a bonus on something from the 1880s, or a tossup on military history and a bonus on social history, etc. What sort of division would one want to see if there were 3 questions per packet?
I usually split up 1/2 or 2/1 American history the way Bruce describes: one colonial or early republic, one 19th-century, one 20th-century. No more than one each military or politics.
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:When you show me evidence there are askable things in Asian, Canadian and World canon that are not dynasties and prime ministers, then we can talk about increasing the distribution in this category. The simple fact is that people know a lot more about American and European history that World history.
I endorse this, although I often write 1/2 or 2/1 world history for my packets. (Pick three areas from the set: East Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.)
Whig's Boson wrote:I split European history into six geographic distributions: Great Britain, Western Europe, Central Europe (Germanic-speaking countries), Eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, Romania, Greece, etc.), Russia, and Classical. I think this is more akin to how people learn European history. While there certainly are classes like "History of Europe, 1450-1800" or whatever, I think most people learn it region by region or country by country. An attempt to learn European history purely chronologically seems like an invitation for a headache, especially before the 19th century. Different parts of Europe developed differently.
I just approved Bruce's subdistro for US, so I'll take the time to quibble with his European split. Almost everyone who takes a European history class will take a survey course of the whole continent or some kind of chronological split. (For instance: "20th century Europe" or "Renaissance and Reformation".) You can find classes with geographic focus (especially Britain, France, Russia), but they're far from universal (and usually filled with junior and senior history majors).

Therefore: when I break down 2/2 European history, my first priority is to break it down chronologically. That is, one each ancient, medieval, early modern and late modern, to avoid the problem of "everyone writes about 16th-19th century political history". Then and only then do I check to make sure I'm not writing about the same country twice.
rylltraka wrote:Perhaps I'm wrong on this; I do classical lit/ancient history, but do the names Ramsay Mcdonald, Luttwak, Mommsen, Willamowitz, E.R. Dodds, Mary Beard, Anne Carson, Froma Zeitlin, Amy Richlin, Helene Foley, Anthony Birley, Edmund Fraenkel, Lattimore . . . mean much to anyone but me (these are the most famous people I can think of in these fields)?
I don't do ancient history, and I've never heard of half of these people (should the first be Ramsay MacMullen?) So I'd guess that "third part of a nationals-level bonus" is probably about right.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by rylltraka » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:34 pm

You're right, Jeff, it is Ramsay Macmullen; I've likely confused the last name with some other scholar. My bad.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:36 pm

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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Mar 17, 2009 9:29 am

But he's not a historian, at least not that I can tell from that bio. I thought Mik's list was supposed to be people who produced important secondary scholarship or something like that. In any case, there's very little audience for most questions of that type right now; if you can work them in through clues and hard bonus parts at hard tournaments, fine, but otherwise I think it would be too much for most players, even most good history players.
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Re: Ratio of American History to European/World History

Post by MikeWormdog » Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:37 pm

Since Andy mentioned me, I thought I, as another actual historian who has taught and taken a bunch of actual history classes, might have something to add. I do think a lot of what Jeff has said makes sense, and it's nice having "history people" talking about "history" questions.

Andy and others are right about history of science being underrepresented. I'd argue that it should be put back in the science distribution, but I don't think that idea's too popular. I twice TA-ed a course called "Epidemics and Society in the West," and think history of medicine in particular dovetails nicely with a lot of disease and biology-type questions. However, disease and medical-type questions currently seem to be less popular or less "science" than some other topics. If Freud still counts as "psychology," shouldn't questions on Koch, Ehrlich, Lister, Pasteur, et al., fit somewhere in science? Or should they all be in some larger "history" distribution? I don't think anyone would argue that they're irrelevant or discredited or even unknown to scientists. As far as I know, we still practice antiseptic surgery and vaccinate people. They also don't fit well into a "philosophy of science" subcategory, unless we lump them in "germ theory."

Mommsen won an early Nobel in Lit, so he's known at some level; Ramsay MacMullen is pretty important, but I doubt he's askable. The most famous person writing about that era is Peter Brown at Princeton (I'm sure Jeff knows who he is). I'd say he's the best-known current scholar in both ancient and medieval history (he writes primarily on Late Antiquity). He could also fit into anthropology or sociology too, since a lot of his work (like his descriptions of the "holy man" and asceticism and sexuality) is pretty anthropological--he and Foucault were colleagues at one point. The Rise of Western Christendom, 200-1000 (get the 2nd edition) is a good work for a general reader/quizbowl-type person.

There are some medievalists who have come up (mainly Annales School types like Marc Bloch), but most ancient and medieval academic historians aren't that widely read. Someone like Donald Kagan, (in)famous because of his neocon family connections, might be askable in either a history (he does stuff on ancient Greece) or current events/recent history context, which as Jerry mentioned, is also underrepresented.

Something that would benefit historians and other academics is more religion/religious history questions. There are lots of saints from the medieval and post-biblical/martyr period (which seems to be the most represented, questions on biblical figures and martyrs like Lawrence and Sebastian aren't unheard of) that would be good fodder and likely appreciated by people who study history, religion, art, myth, and literature. As mentioned above, questions on primary sources and, especially, their authors are also good. Pre-modern writers of history and "church fathers" are relatively untapped sources, or at least have been.

As I have said before (and what Andrew Yaphe points at in the NAQT thread), I think the problem is what people think a "distribution" ought to look like. Most people (particularly younger question writers and editors) seem to like strict categories, so stuff that can fit into a lot of categories doesn't get put in at all because it doesn't fit any one neatly. Does a question on St. Jerome count as history? Literature? Religion? Art history? An experienced person might say, "It depends on how it's written." He still doesn't come up as much as he ought to (just a random example; apologies if there's been a bunch of Jerome questions in the last couple of years). Political and military history are definitely "history," so those get included in both the writing and editing process, just as descriptions of paintings are definitely "art."

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