History Quotes

A historiography course that I took got into a habit of discussing whether a given historian thought a period was dark or light. It was meant as a sort of informal check on the historians’ general views, so we never defined precisely what being dark or light involved. This led to some rather interesting discussions…

On which period E.H. Norman thinks is darker, Meiji or Tokugawa:
“Which is darker?” – Prof. D-
“What colour is Meiji?” – ibid.
“I think it’s… dark blue?” – student’s response

“Could we throw the same question at Frank? Not to put you on the spot, but [what about Prof. Karen Wigen]? – N-
“So, darkness or light? That’s not really a colour question, but a question of… tone?” – Prof. D-
“Gradation, yeah.” – N-

That class had a number of fun discussions, which, of course, led to some more fun quotes. At one point, the professor talked about historians’ tendency to make any work on pre-World War Japanese history lead up to the war, even if the topic was completely unrelated to it. He praised that day’s reading for not following that tendency, only to be immediately contradicted by the students. We pointed out to the section at the end which clearly discussed WWII, and after some thought, he came out with:
“Yeah… This is, uh… an unfortunate two pages, here… ” – Prof. D-

On grad students’ concept of concise writing:
“I want to say that he has a paper circulating online. It’s very short – only 26 pages.” – S-

On giving fair warning:
“My next question is about Professor D-” – J-
About Professor D-?” – Prof. D-
“Yes.” – J-

Fair warning, part II:
“Yeah, you said something about your grade suffering; that was a good – uh, I mean… ” – Prof. D-

A non-native speaker having trouble with English:
“He doesn’t like the term transnational history. He thinks it’s misleading. He prefers, um… eternal history.” – Z-
“Eternal?!?” – Everyone
“Etern-, uh, itern, uhm, itin… ” – Z-
“Itinerant?” – Prof. D-, the mind reader
“Yeah, itinerant history.” – Z-

And a native speaker having trouble with English:
“It’s kind of like if you consider the history of war as groping.” – J-
“Groping?” – Prof. D-
“Yeah.” – J-
“Do you mean grouping?” – Prof. D-
“No – groping.” – J-
“Let’s not do that… ” – Prof. D-

And a random quote from another class:
“It’s the Hitler-liked-dogs theory.” – M-


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