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History of the HTA, The

History of the Historical Text Archive

Things happen historically, not logically. To understand how the HTA was started, you have to understand my involvement with electronic mail. I got involved in computer telecomuncations for history because my elder son studied in Marburg, Germany in 1988-1989, and I learned to use electronic mail so that we could communicate on a regular basis without cost. We used BITNET because that was the e-mail system open to me at Mississippi State University and to him at Phillips University. I also joined some discussion lists, including HISTORY@FINHUTC, which had been organized by a student in Finland, Joni Makivirta (pictured at left). I didn't know that Joni was a student and I didn't care. I had found a way to communicate daily with others interested in history. Yes, there was silliness on the list. I worked around it or tried to get the list back on track when it deviated too much. The discussions varied. The members varied in circumstance; some were students; some were historians; and some from other professions. There were Jim Cocks, computer technician at the University of Louisville, Skip Knox at Boise State, Haines Brown of Central Connecticut State University, Charles Dell, at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, Michael McCarthy, an undergraduate at Marshall University, Christopher Currie of the Institure for Historical Research, and George Welling. There was an underlying current among the professors that the list could be more than it was. Mark Olsen of the University of Chicago eloquently expressed that concern. I tried to address some of those concerns in a May, 1989 message. That elicited specific calls for reform. I thought about ways to make computer telecommunications more useful, but my commitments to publishing on the Latin American drug trade kept me too busy. It was Richard Jensen, then of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who made the difference. He had been trying in the first half of 1989 to get me to organize what we were calling Clionet. As I said at the time, I was too busy to take the challenge. Eventually Jensen would create H-NET .

In 1989, I also became concerned by the inability of historians to move large files by e-mail; or, at least, for some historians to do so. In response to some discussion on HISTORY@FINHUTC (I don't remember the exact nature of it), in December, 1989 I had sent a file on French socialism via e-mail. That caused some stir among some of the participants. I was criticized severely by some of them. Although I offered what I thought was an effective defense and I had support from others, the criticism was deserved. Some people had quotas on their accounts and my mailing burst them. Others were not interested in receiving what I had sent. The solution was to store the files where a person could get them when desired. So I learned about File Transfer Protocol. Late in 1990 I wrote an article for Perspectives of the American Historical Association. When it appeared early in 1991, professional historians came onto the 'Net in droves. I officially created an FTP site (RA) in February, 1991. I was able to get some help. I also tried to get others to do the same thing because I realized that one site could not store everything . Lynn Nelson (pictured) volunteered, and was up and running by August, 1991. We began to divide the load. And we were off and running. RA grew by leaps and bounds as I found new things to store there. Some were sent to me by others. Christopher Currie of the Victoria County History project of the University of London sent me an article on medieval carpentry[I refer you to his revised version which has photos, something not possible when we first did it.] and Art Ferrill sent me several articles on ancient military history, for example. I had to subdivide into directories. By September 1, 1991, the filelist on RA had grown considerably.

The effort to create other sites began in 1991 but accelerated after Thomas Zielke's important paper on "History at Your Fingertips" and my own paper on anonymous FTP sites, both delivered at the Mid-America Conference in September, 1992 (Thomas was in Germany and I was in Mississippi. We chatted in the background while awaiting our turns), things progressed rapidly. One remembers Valentine Smith and his Soviet archives in Kansas City, Mike McCarthy and his Byrd site at Marshall University, George Welling (pictured with guitar) with Gheta at Groningen in Holland, and others that Lynn mentions below. I spent a lot of time trying to get people to create FTP and/or gopher sites (I discovered gopher sites in 1991 and the WWW in Jerusalem in early 1992. RA grew as did the other sites, but I couldn't pay as much attention to history telecommunications as I wanted because I became an associate dean in August, 1991. I had to devote my energies to saving the University's humanities programs and a science program in the face of the efforts of a reactionary committee's efforts to make Mississippi State University into a trade school. That one of the perpetrators was a dear friend made the process more painful. We won but I slept only 4 hours a night for six months. Lynn Nelson had to be the pioneer in finding a way to hook them all together through HNSource.

In retrospect, I was right on target about a number of issues: that colleges and universities would incorporate computer telecommuications into their fixed costs; that this would become a prime means of scholarly communications; and that large files would routinely be moved around. Today, files are routinely large; e-mail quotas virtually don't exist; and we have distributed resources as a routine matter. Who would have thought it ten years ago when I began fiddling with e-mail and trying to protect myself from colleagues who thought I was wasting my time? Even they use e-mail and the Web!

I've taken the liberty to quote from a letter that Lynn Nelson wrote about my role in computer telecommunications for historians and what we had accomplised before the Web.

"He was, of course, the builder and maintainer of RA, and was highly regarded if only for that accomplishment. RA was the first, and at the time the only, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) site for historians. His file of instructions on using FTP was widely distributed both here and abroad, and historians began to learn from it how to utilize the information that he was collecting there for their use.

Together with Thomas Zielke, of Oldenburg University (Germany), Don organized the effort by which members of HISTORY@FINHUTC established, in the space of two months, twenty new discussion lists for historians, each devoted to a specific topic. All twenty are still in operation, with a total membership well in excess of twenty thousand. He also encouraged and guided me in the construction of MALIN, a second FTP site for historians, and we began to work on means of integrating our two sites as a "seamless" whole.

Meanwhile, with Don's constant interest and involvement, and with the help of the LYNX development team here at the University of Kansas, I completed the project he and I had begun, that of developing a means of linking distant sites into effective wholes. Don had the pride of place and, in March of 1993, demonstrated the facility as the center-piece of a talk delivered to the members and sraff of the Institute of Historical Research on the University of London. The facility was HNSOURCE, which, I am told, was the first information server in the world. The Institute was anxious to construct a similar site, as was the National University of Australia. By July of that 1993, these sites were operative, and we set the links that united them, RA and MALIN, into a single network. By the end of the year, BYRD and GHETA, two new FTP sites, and CLASSICS, another information server, had joined, and GRENET, a French site was coming on-line. In November of 1992, Don had suggested that our ultimate goal should be the construction of a world-wide network connecting all the various electronic facilities of use to historians -- ftp, telnet, gopher, and others. In the midst of his other responsibilities, he had somehow found the time to set in motion the development of these new sites. By November of 1993, we had achieved Don's "ultimate" goal.

I apologize for the length of this discussion of Don's activities in the area of computer telecommunications, but the World-Wide Web has caught public attention to such a degree that many people do not realize that there was a good deal of work on the Internet before the Web existed. As a matter of fact, when CERN and NSCA announced that the Web was operational, they found that a well developed historian's network already existed and invited it to join the Web. HNSOURCE became History, the World-Wide Web Virtual Library's maintainer for the subject History, and spun off a series of specialized sites. The Australian server became COOMBSWEB, the WWW-VL maintainer for social science and the center of a massive complex of Australian servers. CLASSICS formed the platform on which the Perseus project was built, and RA, GHETA, and others became award-winning Web sites. (As an aside, Don has continued to develop RA in his "spare" time, and it is now regarded as the primary data base for African and Latin American materials.)

I suppose that someone will eventually write a history of the development of computer telecommunications as a medium and will be struck by the fact that historians seem to have led the way in many ways. If he is curious enough to look into the matter, he will discover the crucial importance of Don's leadership."

In 1998, I began to expand the Historical Text Archives beyond the Mississippi State University server. The HTA has never been an official part of the University. It simply gave me personal Web space just as it gives Web space to students, staff, and other faculty members. The support and supportive comments came from Computing Center (now Systems and Networks) personnel. The Department of History has not understood the Web and what I was doing; I have received no support from that quarter.

It makes no difference where the files are stored, of course. In 1998, I moved some material on Hungarian history to In 1999, I moved much of the site to By April, 2000, I had moved completely off the Mississippi State University server onto different servers in the world. This arrangement works reasonably well. In February, 2001, I had my own domain and server,, which promises to be much better for users and for me.

Ironically, as Director of the Institute for the Humanities at Mississippi State University, I was able to arrange a six-month internship for one of George Welling's graduate students; a side benefit has been that he has been helping me with the HTA. Just in time for my retirement from Mississippi State on June 30, 2003!


Received: by UA1VM (Mailer R2.03B) id 2044; Fri, 19 May 89 19:14:25 CDT

Date: Fri, 19 May 89 09:40:00 EST

Reply-To: History

Sender: History

From: Martin Ryle

Subject: Re: RE: Death of the list?

To: don mabry

Prof. Mabry's question about whether France could have emerged as a modern state without her

revolution is provocative. The issue would seem to reside in our definition of "modern state,"

which I should think would require a shift from subject to citizen, from landed to liquid wealth,

from realm to nation, and other such changes. That the revolution accompanied these shifts

seems to be beyond dispute, and it is probably helpful to think of the shifts as the essence of the

revolution. The particulars of political conflict, violence, war, and speculation were the result of

the specific reactions of specific persons and groups to the radical changes that French society

was undergoing.

Received: by UA1VM (Mailer R2.03B) id 2329; Fri, 19 May 89 21:29:38 CDT

Date: Fri, 19 May 89 13:29:49 EDT

Reply-To: History

Sender: History


To: don mabry

To: Bill Robie

Like any other discipline, there are those who specialize in a specific area which has particular

interest. In the case of Women's History or Black History I believe that they have been neglected

sufficiently to warrant a seperate study.

The rest of the issue hinges, at least in my mind, on whether the isolation of such subjects is

voluntary and if not, does the isolation encourage a strong and unnatural bias to emerge in the


There are also some other things which I must consider before saying more -

namely, whether the development of a distinct branch of history, such as Publishing History or

Railroad History, must naturally produce biases - any ideas?

Received: by UA1VM (Mailer R2.03B) id 2462; Fri, 19 May 89 21:53:08 CDT

Date: Fri, 19 May 89 14:23:32 EDT

Reply-To: History

Sender: History


To: don mabry

Doctor Mabry,

Your regards delivered to Grant, et al, though the department is rather dead during the

intersession. I hope to be able to send you some info on Women in printing and publishing within

the next few weeks. Most of the data was obtained from primary sources, but there were a few

secondar sources which I will bring up as soon as I can locate my paper.

My interest is in Italian Renaissance silversmithing techniques for polishing, deburring, etc.

Received: by UA1VM (Mailer R2.03B) id 2544; Fri, 19 May 89 22:44:51 CDT

Date: Fri, 19 May 89 16:07:00 EST

Reply-To: History

Sender: History


Subject: Help

To: don mabry

If anybody knows a good history of baseball could you please send me the name. Thanks

Alec Plotkin Mgr.

1:>Would ALec Plotkin contact me directly regarding his question about

2:>a history of baseball. The userid I received doesn't work.


Received: by UA1VM (Mailer R2.03B) id 2714; Sat, 20 May 89 00:48:07 CDT

Date: Thu, 18 May 89 10:43:25 CST

Reply-To: History

Sender: History

Comments: Please Acknowledge Receipt

From: Z4648252

Subject: Texas woman in history

To: don mabry

I'm not actively working in women's history either, but Texas has

rich folklore and myths. Trying to pull the truth out is not really that


For example, the "mother" of Texas is considered to be Janes Long.

The following is the circumstance:

A dentist named Dr. James Long arrived in Texas in 1819 during June.

He and his force of 200 men occupied the present day city of Nacogdoches

(where I am typing this!!!) and the Stone Fort, which is a 'tourist trap'

today. He declared Texas to be independent from Spain, or more specifically, New Spain


He left the area to pick up supplies and brought his wife, Jane Long

and her black servant girl, Kian. This was during the year 1820. They

arrived with a large armed force and set up a fort on the coast at Port

Bolivar. By this time, New Spain authorities were becoming alarmed, sent

a force to La Bahia where Long and his men journeyed (he left Jane and Kian

at Bolivar) and captured them. Dr. Long was executed.

Wife Jane and Kian decided to remain at Port Bolivar, surviving on

fish and what other seafoods they could obtain, and using a cannon to keep

curious Karankawa Indians from coming near them(1). When she learned of

Long's fate, Jane Long rode horseback to Mexico in an effort to have her

husband's murderers punished(2).

For Texans, Jane Long is considered the Mother of Texas, but to be

more exact Kian should be considered the Black Mother of Texas. Kian

remained loyal to Jane throughout the duration and declined any offer of

freedom. It is unfortunate that Kian is rarely mentioned.

Note that the references come from: All Hail the Mighty State: TEXAS.

by Archie P. McDonald. Pages 47-49.

1: From your note, one must assume that Texas in this context means Texas

the independent nation. Otherwise, one would have to look for a

4:>chicana or an Amerind as the "mother."

5:>Isn't the historian's proper viewpoint that there is no "mother" or

6:>"father" in such instances? That parentage is an inappropriate



Received: by UA1VM (Mailer R2.03B) id 2743; Sat, 20 May 89 05:26:03 CDT

Date: Thu, 18 May 89 14:09:00 EDT

Reply-To: History

Sender: History


Subject: Following up on Mark Olsen.

To: don mabry

I just want to follow up on Mark Olsen's remarks. While interested in

history, I'm not in any way a historian by training or profession. I

subscribe to HISTORY out of general curiosity and as our BITNET

Inforep to keep up my awareness of things others on campus might want

to know about.

Toward that end, the other day I finally detected enough interest in

BITNET in our History Department that I arranged a custom session to

tell them about BITNET and show hands-onthem how to access it, salting

the examples with some recent items from HISTORY and HUMANIST.

These people all use computers, but they use PCs, not our large

systems. Some use Macintoshes and some DOS PCs So there are several

thresholds (barriers) they encounter before they can really begin to

make BITNET use a regular part of their professional activity.

They have to use a terminal emulator to get to our large system (node

UNHH, named "Hilbert"). They have to learn a little bit about VAX/VMS

MAIL. They do not have to learn a VAX/VMS editor, but the whole

process becomes much, much easier if they can. None of these is a big

deal, but for a historian who is already very busy, they can

cumulatively serve to keep BITNET at arm's length.

I suspect we are representative in this situation, not unique.

Jim Cerny



/ |

/ |

James W. Cerny / |

MicroVAX Support Manager and / | D=University of NH,

Newsletter Publisher / | Durham campus.

University Computing / | K=Keene State College

Hamilton Smith Hall / | M=University of NH,

University of New Hampshire / P | Manchester campus.

Durham, NH 03824 | P=Plymouth State College

/ |

(603)-862-3058 / |__


UUCP: ... uunet!unh!jwc M _|


------------------------------------------------------------------------------Received: by UA1VM (Mailer

R2.03B) id 2795; Sat, 20 May 89 05:32:37 CDT

Date: Fri, 19 May 89 20:11:00 EST

Reply-To: History

Sender: History

From: Martin Ryle

Subject: Re: Relevency....(or lack thereof)

To: don mabry

Re Donald Mabry's comments about historians doing ourselves in. Whenever one of my

colleagues calls upon the example of Munich to justify intransigence

toward the Soviet Union, I feel obliged to charge the benighted soul with

incompetence. If history does not teach us to get the facts straight, judge

each circumstance in its own context, and avoid simplistic application of

"lessons" learned from the past, then history teaches nothing worthwhile.

Martin Ryle

Professor of History

University of Richmond, VA

Received: by UA1VM (Mailer R2.03B) id 3666; Sat, 20 May 89 19:37:36 CDT

Date: Sat, 20 May 89 20:23:21 EST

Reply-To: History

Sender: History

From: Morris Fried

To: don mabry

In-Reply-To: Message of Wed,

17 May 89 05:16:44 CDT from

Prof. Olsen's comments are accurate and to the point. His message points the way to a more

appropriate use of this medium; until now, except for one or two others, only Professor Mabry's

comments and suggestions have been stimulating to a sociologist with a serious interest in and

commitment to history, and historical thought. A combination of technical advice and theoretical suggestions would be marvelous. Let's not bury the list yet, please.

And now that I've only just heard about the Humanist list, can someone tell me how to subscribe

to that?

Received: by UA1VM (Mailer R2.03B) id 3606; Sat, 20 May 89 17:44:52 CDT

Date: Sat, 20 May 89 18:33:00 EDT

Reply-To: History

Sender: History

From: "Peter D. Junger"

Subject: Royal progresses

To: don mabry

A colleague of mine would like to find a short description

of English 'Royal progresses.' I believe that he is particularly

interested in the economic consequences of having a medieval court

drop in for dinner.

Thank you.

Peter Junger--CWRU Law School--Cleveland,


Received: by UA1VM (Mailer R2.03B) id 3798; Sat, 20 May 89 23:06:17 CDT

Date: Sat, 20 May 89 23:49:43 LCL

Reply-To: History

Sender: History

From: Karen Vogeley

Subject: Merely a personal interest

To: don mabry

Would anyone be able to recommend a good biography of Margaret,

Countess of Salisbury? She had an interesting life, which was ended

by Henry VIII.




* History


* Review= Public Subscription= Open Send= Public

* Notify= No Reply-to= List,Respect Files= Yes

* Ack= No FormCheck= No X-Tags= Comment

* Notebook= Yes,G,Separate,Public

* Validate= Store only

* Mail-via= Dist2

* LoopCheck= NoToCount

* Errors-To = Owner


* Owner= MAKIVIRT@FINJYU (Joni Makivirta)


* The meaning of this list is to discuss about history as a science,

* computers and historians, cultural development, cultural differences,

* and philosophy. HISTORY wants to be a discussion forum for historians

* and bring history closer to other sciences.


R3KEZ@AKRONVM Karl E. Ziellenbach

arpalists+HISTORY@ANDREW.CMU.EDU Andrew Message System


A7171GAA@AWIUNI11 Thomas Wiltner


NETNEWS@BLEKUL11 netnews usenet









FECTEAU@CUA Claude G. Fecteau


blumberg@CUNIXD.CC.COLUMBIA.EDU roger b. blumberg


WOOLF@DALAC Daniel Woolf

UPG202@DBNRHRZ1 Axel Wupper


ZHSF@DK0ZA1 "Ralph Ponemereo"

113355@DOLUNI1 Thomas Zielke

170186@DOLUNI1 thorsten mack


MAKIVIRT@FINJYU joni makivirta


HIST-MK@FINOU martin kusch

HIS-JK@FINTUVM Jaakko Kankaanp{{

KALLIOKO@FINUHA Matti Kalliokoski


BRINNEL@FRSUN12 Heiner Brinnel


LIBRSPE@GWUVM Matthew Gilmore

UW641C@GWUVM Bob Tolchin


RCDILAA@HDETUD1 Hans van der Laan


AIBM002@ICINECA Alex Martelli

C312-004@IRLEARN jim duffy

C312-016@IRLEARN Eddie O'Loughlin.



MORRSC89@IRLEARN Deirdre Morrissey

STCS8013@IRUCCVAX Humphrey Sorensen






BI8030@JPNKISCI Kentarou Gotou

BI8035@JPNKISCI shite kazu

WINCHELL@KENTVM jan winchell

FKAFKA@KSUVM Gregory T. Davis



RAS370@MAINE William TeBrake







UD165202@NDSUVM1 Nathan Irwin

DDAHM@NEUVM1 Hans Joergen Marker

KLA@NIHCU Karen La Paglia


HKLRP@NOBERGEN Richard Holton Pierce



HSW100U@ODUVM Dr. Wilson




WHV@PSUVM Bill Verity

RICH@PUCC Richard Giordano


0632281@PUCC Tom Nimick

JOHNFOX@RCN john fox




Z4648252@SFAUSTIN Larry Rymal



CM5@TAUNIVM shmuel orenbuch


PA126318@TECMTYVM Alfredo Delgado-Garza


OEBL8717@TREARN ibrahim hur

GRFG001@TWNMOE10 robert wu

GM06091@UAFSYSB Gerald Wayne McCollum

LOIS@UCF1VM Lois Buwalda



MAD01014@UFRJ Sergio T. Balaj

CHRIS@UKCC Chris Corman


STEVE@UKCC Steve Thomson

ARKEAR01@ULKYVM Anna Kearney

C225789@UMCVMB nick davis

C476721@UMCVMB bill ball

TBEAUDOIN@UMKCVAX1 Thomas More Beaudoin





JAPENNY@UNCG jim penny

J_CERNY@UNHH Jim Cerny -- Univ. N.H.

ATSDJR@UOFT01 Donna J. Rostetter

ATSPFM@UOFT01 Pat Mercurio

UOG91026@UOGUELPH martin agnew


RYLE@URVAX "martin Ryle"

F0A8@USOUTHAL James B. McSwain







P.Adman@VME.CC.HULL.AC.UK peter adman

E.Mawdsley@VME.GLASGOW.AC.UK Evan Mawdsley


N.J.Morgan@VME.GLASGOW.AC.UK Nicholas Morgan

edt@VTCOSY.CNS.VT.EDU Ed Tuthill

BLNKNSHP@VTVM1 L. A. Blankenship




JKASIOWN@WAYNEST1 Jerry Kasiowniak



ELINZE@YALEVM Naama Zahavi-Ely

MKELLER@YALEVM michael keller

BRIANW@YORKVM2 "Brian Whittaker"


* Total number of "concealed" subscribers: 1

* Total number of users subscribed to the list: 136 (non-"concealed" only)

* Total number of local node users on the list: 0 (non-"concealed" only)


Use of History

Received: by UA1VM (Mailer R2.03B) id 6979; Thu, 18 May 89 12:37:06 CDT

Date: Wed, 17 May 89 05:16:44 CDT

Reply-To: History

Sender: History

From: Mark Olsen

To: don mabry

The HISTORY list has produced an amazing amount of garbage that, speaking buntly, is not only pointless but embarassing to historians. The numerous attempts to stimulate conversation by making inflamatory comments about national characteristics or posing hypothetical and unanswerable questions are certainly not indicative of the caliber of thought that one typically encounters in historical research. The problem is that the list was started without focus and without a defined consistuency. A comparison to the very sucessful HUMANIST list might be helpful.

I was at the meeting where HUMANIST was formed. It was clear that the main focus was computer applications in the very broadly defined discipline called "humanities". The binding ethic allows individuals from very diverse backgrounds to communicate sensibly about topics of importance. Not only are there broad discussions of "purpose" and opinion, but a VERY important exchange of technical information, ranging from the availability of data to programming problems. HUMANIST also boasts an impressive array of individuals willing to share technical knowledge and provide advice on other research and teaching matters. What attracts scholars and teachers to HUMANIST is the clear definition of what is being discussed and the application of the information exchanged to their work. I have learned -- as a French revolutionary historian and review editor for _Computers and the Humanities_ -- a lot from HUMANIST that applies to my work; frequently this information comes from people whose direct research interests are very far removed from mine. A clearer defintion of what HISTORY is would help stimulate useful exchanges.

As an historian, I have been particularly depressed about the failure of historians to develop networks to exhange information. It is not that historians are not doing good work with computers. Indeed, looking at the journals _Social Science History_ or _Journal of Interdisciplinary History_, or _Historical Methods_ would suggest that historians have more than "humanists" to talk about regarding computer applications in history. Part of the problem is institutional in that there is no one place where computer applications in history can be discussed.

Further, there is no "repository" of machine-readible datasets, with the exception of Michigan's consortium. Another major problem is the limitation of "computer applications" in history to SPSS or SAS stats applications. Database design should be a CENTRAL concern to historians of all kinds. Full text systems and applications should be of interest to intellectual historians. The failure of historians to grasp computers in a fashion that goes beyond statistical methods is suggested by the fact that there has not been a single instruction level text on _Computers and History_ since Shorter's in the early 70s. Indeed, the only general survey is the recent conference proceedings from England, which stressed the diversity, but not points of contact, of historical research and teaching. My disappointment, as an historian, is also found in that there are VERY few working historians on HUMANIST and very few who are found at more general computing conferences.

I would like to propose that the HISTORY list consider focusing its discussion more clearly on a limited number of topics. My vote would be to parallel, in some ways, HUMANIST's concentration on computer applications in humanities research and teaching. HISTORY could serve as a clearing house for technical information and advice on a broad number of issues. If it grows in the same way as HUMANIST, HISTORY could become a very valuable source for exchange of information concerning exiting data sets, ongoing research projects, historical software, and so on. This would not "prohibit" more general discussions, but would focus the comments and add some needed direction to the list.

Thanks for letting me vent my spleen.

Mark Olsen
University of Chicago

In re History

May 25, 1989


Our colleagues from Chicago and Princeton not only complained about the nature of some messages on HISTORY but made some important suggestions about how the list could be improved. Fundamentally, of course, they raised the issue of the *function* of HISTORY.

I strongly agree that sending flames in the hopes of provoking messages on the list is inappropriate and counterproductive. Name calling, in whatever form, is almost always counterproductive, even when it does prompt one to respond to the name caller.

Discussing historical events, however, is something different. Through such discussions one can gain a different (and perhaps better) understanding of those events. The issue of revolution is a case in point. The French Revolution is being celebrated with much hoopla this year but often without pointing out its ramifications. Since almost all of us are children of the French Revolution, we tend to view it uncritically. That is, we often look at political events as turning points while ignoring the economic changes taking place. Changes in the means of production in the 18th century certainly produced social and political change.

The information provided about Canadian history was very valuable, especially to those of us who know little Canadian history. That information came as a result of a question on the French Revolution.

In my opinion, one important function of HISTORY is to enable historians and those interested in history to have such discussions.

Should HISTORY become another HUMANIST? The latter is an excellent source of information on a variety of hardware and software issues, although not all of those discussed are useful to historians. Nevertheless, historians can subscribe to HUMANIST and learn; there is no real need to duplicate HUMANIST.

What we could use, as Olsen points out, are discussions of computer application problems of utility to historians. One can hope that Olsen or someone else will help us on this. Richard Jensen uses HISTORY and could contribute much in this regard.

HISTORY, however, should not be just for quantitative or social science historians.

Three important elements need to be added to HISTORY to give it the broadest possible utility.

(1) A directory of historians with their e-mail addresses and research fields.
(2) A directory of archivists with their e-mail addresses.
(3) A directory of archival collections accessible via e-mail.

A directory of historians should be more comprehensive than the membership list of HISTORY. We would benefit by knowing the research field(s) of each person. We would want included historians other than those on HISTORY. Many of us know such historians and, with their permission, include them on a directory.

Similarly, a directory of archivists should be created. This directory might include some information about the archivist's particular responsibilities. That is, if the archivist manages early nineteenth century Vermont papers but know little about 20th century collections, it would help those who would want to contact the archivist. Being able to communicate directly with an archivist before one makes the trek would be an important service to historical research and writing.

There are more data archives than the Michigan consortium. We have heard from Joergen in Denmark. There are medieval archives in Belgium and New Jersey (Rutgers). There must be others. What we need is a directory of archival collections accessible by e-mail.

Were we not having increasing difficulty in maintaining our link connections, I might volunteer to serve as a clearinghouse for the creation of these three items. But, even as I write, I am not sure when our link will be up again.

Could Joni and others at FINHUTC start this project? I am willing to forward some ideas developed by Richard Jensen and me to anyone willing to take on the project.


Received: by UA1VM (Mailer R2.03B) id 6150; Fri, 02 Jun 89 17:49:07 CDT

Date: Tue, 30 May 89 14:12:00 EST

Reply-To: History

Sender: History


Subject: RE: History Potential & stuff

To: don mabry

May 30, 1989

I agree with Dr. Mabry's proposals for the History list.

We had a member list before, but that has fallen to the

wayside. Perhaps if it were mandatory that a person submit an

ID file when joining (and notified when they were leaving) the

list, then an updated journal could be kept. If we could

have a central address where such materials could be sent for

processing and where suggestions and/or problems could be

handled, so much the better for our group (e.g. at FINHUTC).

The History list has great potential. Archival work is

a given in the social science fields, and a network of

scholars, antiquarians, professors, administrators, and

interested amateurs would comprise a formidable body of

information, references, and clues. The list can offer the

possibilities of beginning long list and off-list discussions

between interested parties.

Discussion on the list should not be downplayed! Various

and widely ranged topics are what give this list real life,

anybody who is in at least some sense a historian would be

captivated by at least some of the postings and would desire

their continuance. Two issues, however, do have to be addressed:

1.) Let's stop the multiple postings of the same

message, while it isn't a major problem, there isn't any

need for it.

2.) Personality conflicts should not be settled on this

list. Phone the other person, visit them, write them,

SEND them via ordinary mail, whatever, but this is not

the place for such behavior.

If anyone has any suggestions and/or topics, I would be

glad to hear them. If Joni and the others at FINHUTC need

help, then I invite them to ask me, or better yet to send

mail to the list regarding their view of the current state of

affairs. Hey, everybody, remember: this list is supposed to

be fun and informative - let's make it so!



Date: Mon, 8 May 89 01:17 EST


Subject: Re: email


Original_To: Jnet%"DJMABRY@MSSTATE"

Original_cc: CAMPBELD

The whole world can trek to Mississippi State, via e-mail. (HUMANIST put Toronto on the map....not quite). --the way to do it is get official support first. Ask your administration for

1) official support

2) free computer time (which they give anyway)

3) some released time or summer pay for yourself

4) a part-time student assistant

5) some fancy computer gear that can be dedicated to an email system (about $5000)

6) a telephone & printing budget ($600)

There's nothing that beats ild-fashioned publication so much as support from the administration. They probably want to be on the world map. --you might also go national: endorsement from the AHA quantification committee looks nice, though it means zip

National Endowment for Humanities would be willing to spend $15,000 for a national (international) HUMANIST-style network for historians. --free advice anytime.... seriously, I'm keen on the idea & would be delighted to help.

Date: Mon, 8 May 89 03:55 EST


Subject: clionet

To: djmabry@msstate

Original_To: JNET%"djmabry@msstate"

further thoughts:

May 8, 1989 CLIONET brainstorm Richard Jensen

bitnet address = CAMPBELD@IUBACS

A. 5000+ historians currently own their own PCs, and can be

networked together by CLIONET

1. CLIONET would be one of 100+ user groups on BITNET, which connects most academic mainframes in US and Europe.

a) cost of BITNET use = zero

b) cost of access for a historian = cost of local phone call to campus computer; plus cost of modem

1) can be used by terminals on campus, without PC

2. several hundred historians now use e-mail, in esultory fashion (mostly for intra-campus communication)

3. communications programs are free (come with modem, or sold

for $5 thru user groups, campus computer centers)

a) recommended: PROCOM

B. CLIONET would provide

1. linkages to community of scholars

2. ideas, help, tips on software, hardware problems & innovations

3. bulletin board service for

a) exchange of generalities

b) announcements re archives, conferences, conventions, job openings, fellowships, lectures, workshops

c) identification of subcommunities of interest, to create mailing lists or initiate 1-1 contacts

d) news of members

4. downloadable long files

a) tables of contents of forthcoming journals, conventions, conference programs

b) reports on new archival accessions

c) publisher announements; new books; book sales

d) utility shareware programs for general purpose

e) software written by historians

f) mailing lists of special interest groups

C. Advantages of CLIONET

1. very fast turnaround time (24 hours, vs 2 months+ for newsletters, even more for journals)

a) or 1 year for convention

b) thus many messages of short-term usefulness that are now disseminated poorly will become widely available

1) eg lectures, workshops open to public

2) paper-matching for conventions

2. democratic access

a) many new contacts with likeminded scholars far away

3. exhilirating sense of participation in telecommunication & computer frontier

4. e-mail psychology: much more brainstorming, esp of short thoughts; less formality than snailmail letters; much less than letters to editor

D. Future of CLIONET

1. special interest groups set up own networks

a) e.g. women's history, diplomatic, French etc

2. electronic publishing of bibliographical lists of recent articles, books, dissertations

a) much more likely

b) now in hard copy in JAH, JSH, WHQ; AHA's Recent Arts, etc

c) electronic listings can be browsed, searched, downloaded

3. electronic publshing of reviews, articles: very unlikely

E. organization

1. somebody has to run it

a) needs support from home university

1) approval for use of computers

2) like a student assistant; telephone $

b) needs professional endorsements (easy)

c) might get NEH $ (harder)

d) need BITNET approval (EASY)

2. need 20-30 "regulars" who will supply material regularly

3. need 200-300 "irregulars" who want the mail to arrive automatically in the e-mail boxes, & will read it, pass it along to colleagues

some userids:
brownuvm::hi700000 uicvm::U11294

Defense December 28, 1989

It was not until our link came up last night that I was able to read the various comments on my sending the bibliography on French socialism

I sent the bibliography to the list for a variety of reasons. BITNET is supposed to be a means of scholarly communication; HISTORY is supposed to be an academic list. It does not take much experience with either to realize that such is often not to case. Instead, one reads a lot of mindless drivel or uninformed comments. Last spring, there were some very strongly-worded flames about the unprofessional nature of HISTORY. Although the list improved during the Fall, it was not reaching its potential.

One possible tactic to improve the list was to use it for scholarly purposes. Two scholarly purposes are (1) to provide bibliographies on a large and important subject, and (2) to demonstrate how such bibliographies can be compiled. Socialism is certainly an important historical topic; French socialism, although more narrow, has the merit of touching directly and indirectly on a wide variety of topics. That the bibliography was retrieved from the California OPAC was a demonstration of a valuable scholarly resource that such OPACS represent. Although some people on the list do not have access to INTERNET nor can they telnet (necessary to use online public access catalogs), the demonstration that such a resource exists might prove to be useful if they wanted to obtain this means of communication. That is, they could then go to the proper authorities with concrete proof of the valuable of being given access to the INTERNET. The worst possible case seemed to be that those not interested in the bibliography would be given the opportunity to be collegial by giving it to a colleague or colleagues who might be interested in such a subject.

Mississippi is the poorest state in the United States with a level of poverty below that of most Western European nations. Mississippi State University is a poor university. In spite of our relative poverty, we have a deep commitment to research and scholarship. Because we do, we provide faculty with unlimited access to electronic mail. We have no quotas, charges, or the like.

Thus, it never crossed my mind that sending the bibliography would cause problems for others. Certainly, there are enough problems in existence without contributing to them. Yes, I do regret the inconvenience and expense I created for others. And, of course, I will not do the same again.

One can hope that a time will come when colleges and universities will treat electronic mail as a fixed operating cost and that electronic mail within the academic community will truly become scholarly.

French Bibliography

Received: by UGA (Mailer R2.05) id 5366; Sat, 30 Dec 89 12:04:36 EST Date: Fri, 29 Dec 89 22:12:41 EST Reply-To: History Sender: History From: Morris Fried Subject: Re: Bibliography To: don mabry In-Reply-To: Message of Thu, 28 Dec 89 13:52:11 CST from

Let me add my voice to those who appreciate the efforts of Professor Mabry to raise the academic and scholarly level of the discussions on this list. True, the bibliography was extensive and it used up much of the allotted disc space that many of us have - but no real damage was done to anyone, as far as I can tell from the various negative comments. Mostly, people were annoyed at all those titles (and so many in French!) - Personally, I thought it was an astonishing presentation, both technically and from the point of view of the extensiveness of scholarly contribution in an area of serious concern, especially as this century draws to a close. I was delighted to scroll through those titles, and even make some notes, and I'm happy to know this kind of stuff can be accessed to our PCs, from California by way of Mississippi! Thanks, Don Mabry, you've made a valuable contribution to this list... Why not some followup, with annotated bibliographies, briefer by all means, but continuing along this path? Does anyone second the motion?

Received: by UGA (Mailer R2.05) id 5721; Sat, 30 Dec 89 12:08:25 EST Date: Fri, 29 Dec 89 22:58:38 CST Reply-To: History Sender: History From: Mark Olsen Subject: Bibliography To: don mabry

I would like to see more, possibly shorter, bibliographies left on a list server, such as HUMANIST's server. The hostile reaction to Mabry's bibliography was, in my opinion, far too harsh. He made a good faith effort to use the HISTORY list in a scholarly and responsible fashion which inconvenienced a couple of individuals whose e-mail software is particularly poorly written or are at institutions which are not supporting humanities computing at adequate levels. I trust that the reaction will not stop Mabry and others from attempting to make this list more useful.

Mark Olsen University of Chicago

Received: by UGA (Mailer R2.05) id 6509; Sat, 30 Dec 89 12:19:27 EST Date: Sat, 30 Dec 89 07:17:00 EST Reply-To: History Sender: History From: Martin Ryle Subject: Re: Bibliography To: don mabry

One more voice in support of Don Mabry. The infamous bibliography demonstrates a strength of e-mail and of scholarly nets. Had I found it irrelevant to my interests, a simple "del 1-11" would have wiped it out of my account in short order. To satisfy all, is it possible to post such listings to the listserver, as is done on HUMANIST?

Martin Ryle University of Richmond

id 9475; Sat, 30 Dec 89 15:24:18 EST Date: Sat, 30 Dec 89 15:16:16 EST Reply-To: History Sender: History From: Harold Wilson Subject: Bibliographies To: don mabry

Yes, Professor Mabry is demonstrating the future capacity of the system. At present our colleagues in the sciences are sending far larger files at 10 MB a second (about 10,000 pages). We are seeing the future and it works.

Received: by UGA (Mailer R2.05) id 0186; Sun, 31 Dec 89 01:48:52 EST Date: Sun, 31 Dec 89 00:39:47 EST Reply-To: History Sender: History From: "John Bor Ox, AA" To: don mabry In-Reply-To: Bibliography


Received: by TAUNIVM (Mailer R2.03B) id 8332; Sun, 31 Dec 89 18:36:12 IST Date: Sun, 31 Dec 89 18:28:53 IST From: Ronen Shapira Subject: Re: HISTORY & Files To: "Donald J. Mabry" In-Reply-To: Your message of Wed, 27 Dec 89 19:08:52 CST

Don No need to fuss about that. Just don't pay attention to the snarlers, let them snarl. You did a great job in sending the files, and many people will use it, even the snarlers. I don't know if you noticed, but the discussion you set did arouse attention from a lot of people. The problem with the list, I think, is that it's just to small. each of us has is own area of interst, and in fact there are very few problems common to the historians community as a whole. maybe this list should deal only with such subjects, and established smaller list with special interest, such a latin-america, the middle-east, the far-east, ancient history etc... and thenks for the files. Ronen

Received: by UGA (Mailer R2.05) id 5230; Tue, 02 Jan 90 20:19:31 EST Date: Tue, 2 Jan 90 19:52:00 EST Reply-To: History Sender: History From: PROF NORM COOMBS Subject: Re: Bibliography To: don mabry

JUst came back from out of town for a few days. Was surprised that the bibliography brought Don negative replies. If this is not the place to share scholarly tools and concerns because of costs, then it seems to me that there

Received: by UGA (Mailer R2.05) id 8466; Wed, 03 Jan 90 13:39:54 EST Date: Wed, 3 Jan 90 14:53:15 CET Reply-To: History Sender: History From: Thomas Zielke <113355@DOLUNI1> Subject: Re: Bibliography To: don mabry In-Reply-To: Message of Fri, 29 Dec 89 22:12:41 EST from

Dear Morris Fried,

yes, of course : Don Mabry's bibliography WAS a magnificent demonstration of what good we can get from e-mailing. Nevertheless, it DID also slow down traffic on the whole net and therefore brought some inconvenience not only to some HISTORY-subscribents, but also to people who have nothing to do with this list.

I would of course encourage all those who have large bibliograpies at hand to inform other people about the availability of these collections, but I would prefer these masses of data to be sent only on request, either via private mail or via file-server, but never in the way Mabry did it.

In fact, we should seriously think of collecting the bibliographies at a file-server, as it would make them available for everyone at any time. A standardized form of bibliograpic entry would be welcome, I believe, as well as comments on the books.

Thomas Zielke Historisches Seminar Universit{t Oldenburg D-2900 Oldenburg


FROM: The PC of Anne Kearney History Program
Phone: 584-0181 extension 353
SUBJECT: Bibliography
Don, I think you responded admirably to these over reactions. Having just gotten back in the field again, I had forgotten how much hostility some historians have lying just below the surface. How can we accomplish things when people respond with such emotion?

I am on a few other lists and the most hostile (flames?) responses are the ones on History. Thanks for getting things back on an even keel again!
-Anne Kearney Jefferson Community College Louisville, Kentucky ARKEAR01 at ULKYVM Bibliography

E-mail and Historians, February 1991

From: Perspectives (February 1991), Newsletter of the American Historical Association.


During the summer of 1990, a group of scholars debated a range of historical issues including the origins of agriculture, warfare, and walled cities. Members of this group also sought information about specific historical events and queried one another for help in locating sources and studies on specific topics. During the previous year, they had discussed women's history, the uses of history, socialism, the history of Scotland, the Crusades, the invasion of Panama, and the origins of the Cold War. They announced forthcoming conferences; solicited manuscripts for scholarly journals; posted notices of job openings; and aided one another in obtaining access to historical electronic databases. This everyday occurrence would be unremarkable except that the participants were physically located in the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Israel, Finland, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, and Canada. Moreover, each of these communications traveled from the contributor's locale to Finland and then back to all of the participants while a scholar in Germany served as postmaster. All are members of HISTORY@FINHUTC.BITNET, an electronic mail discussion group.

Although participation in an international electronic seminar such as HISTORY might appear to require the kind of knowledge possessed only by computer scientists, such is not the case. Anyone who uses a personal computer for word processing only has to learn a little more to use electronic mail (e-mail). E-mail is also easier and faster to use than the regular postal system. Instead of typing a letter or manuscript on a word processor, printing it, putting it into a stamped, addressed envelope, and then carrying the envelope to a mail box, one simply connects to the local mainframe computer, opens one's e-mail account, types the address of the recipient, and transfers the text to the mainframe. The mainframe then forwards the e-mail message to the recipient's mailbox, whether that mail box is on the local computer or on one ten thousand miles away. Normally, the message will reach the recipient's mailbox in seconds where it will remain until the recipient deletes it. If the message cannot be delivered, the system quickly notifies the sender.

The full dimensions of BITNET/NETNORTH/EARN (henceforth cited as BITNET) are staggering. BITNET (Because It's Time Network), NETNORTH (Canada), and EARN (European Academic and Research Network) connect some 2700 "nodes" (sites) located in colleges, universities, research institutes, and such organizations as the National Archives and the National Institutes of Health. BITNET nodes exist in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, every Common Market nation except the United Kingdom (which has its own e-mail system), Egypt, Yugoslavia, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, among others. One can send messages through BITNET to any other e-mail system, be it academic, governmental, military, non-profit, or commercial, so long as that system is connected to the backbone network, the Internet.

For individuals, the cost of this service is low or non-existent. Member institutions pay for the computer time, software, systems operators, and the dedicated telephone line that connects institution "A" with institution "B." Thus, the real expense of maintaining these interconnected computers is borne by institutions, not the individual. E-mail accounts are almost always free to staff members and, often, to students. To use the BITNET system, individuals need to supply only their own personal computers, the modem, and the communications software necessary to telephone into the mainframe.

HISTORY@FINHUTC.BITNET (henceforth called HISTORY) is one of the many discussion groups or lists hosted on BITNET. Located at a Finnish university (FINHUTC) in the BITNET domain, HISTORY depends on a computer program called a listserv (list server) that receives all messages posted to it and then redistributes them to members of the list. These lists focus on specific areas of interest to the members who choose to subscribe. When one subscribes to a list, one automatically receives a copy of all messages posted to that list and can reply to any or all of those messages or post a new one for all other list members to read.

The topics discussed and the amount of member participation on HISTORY fluctuates. For example, someone raised the question of the definition of the pivotal events in history, certainly an issue of perennial concern to historians. Not surprisingly, the nature of the ensuing discussion was affected by each contributor's nationality and field of expertise, an important reminder that historical scholarship is not totally objective. While most list members simply read the postings, a few directed the discussion to the more narrow focus of the Vietnam War. Military historians and historians of 20th century United States politics came to the fore, as they and other list members dissected each other's arguments and cited authorities. This debate eventually led the group into a more general discussion of the origins of war, which, in turn, evolved into a discussion of the relationship between the origins of war and the advent of agriculture, the possible reasons for walled cities (in which archaeologists participated), the differing views of prehistory held by archaeologists and historians, and back to a discussion of the historical development of weaponry and tactics. Not long before the war-related discussion took place, members debated the meaning of "modern history" and how one can distinguish between "modern" and "pre-modern." That discussion was led by medievalists, early modern specialists, social historians, and political historians.

Participation in such discussions, either as a contributor or as a reader, is easy, intellectually stimulating, and informative, regardless of one's particular specialty. The very diversity of the group makes such discussions particularly enjoyable. List members include the range from persons eminent in their respective fields to persons who belong because they like historical studies. Specialists must explain their thoughts so that non-specialists can understand. Period specialists can test their ideas against those of specialists who study a different period. Generalists often ask the questions that open new lines of thought. One can read only those messages in which is interested or start the group on another topic by sending a message.

HISTORY is only one of the e-mail discussion groups of possible interest to historians. L-CHA@UQAM.BITNET, the e-mail discussion group of the Canadian Historical Association Conference on Computing, focuses on ways professional historians can better use computers, software, and electronic databases to teach and do research. These discussions are of interest to "traditional" historians, not just those who use quantitative techniques. Like HISTORY, L-CHA is used to post conference programs, requests for scholarly assistance, and job openings. C18-L@PSUVM.PSU.EDU , an Internet list, is the discussion list for 18th Century Interdisciplinary Discussion. SHAKER@UKCC.UKY.EDU discusses The United Society of Believers. HUMANIST@BROWNVM.BITNET is a technique-oriented list for humanists trying to choose the most appropriate software, hardware, and analytical tools although its members also discuss issues of general interest to humanists. Latin American historians can join lists devoted to the region or to specific nations. The number of lists of potential interest to professional historians is almost as diverse as the historical profession itself, for lists exist not only on BITNET but on other electronic mail networks as well. The local e-mail administrator, usually a person in the campus computer support office, can provide the information necessary to poke around in the various networks and lists.

E-mail lists perform another valuable service, that of locating the e-mail addresses of persons with whom one wants to correspond. Although each posting sent to one's electronic mail box contains the sender's name and address, one often forgets to make a record of it. Many list members only read messages or contribute infrequently. Because there are millions of persons using e-mail, there is no directory of users. A BITNET node administrator can explain the means built into the system to provide some directory assistance. Lists, however, maintain a directory of their membership and that list can be retrieved electronically. One can then send a private message to a person on that list to continue a discussion in private, pursue scholarly collaboration, or obtain information.

HISTORY members have used contacts made on the list for a number of professional purposes. These include:

(1) Determining the operating hours of a distant library or archive one plans to visit.

(2) Obtaining a copy of a paper presented at a conference one could not attend or a quick copy of a journal article not locally available.

(3) Learning specific information about a job announcement.

(4) Getting help in identifying bibliographic and archival materials.

(5) Identifying possible grants.

(6) Coordinating a grant when the principal investigators are on different campuses.

(7) Prompting a contributor to an edited volume to respond.

The value of belonging to an e-mail discussion list varies. List members can include the full range of people one finds on a college or university setting. Some lists, depending upon the activity of the members, are serious electronic seminars. Others resemble a faculty cocktail party or a student bull session. To determine which is which, one has to join the list and read the postings. If one is not interested in what the list does, then one simply resigns from it.

The procedure for joining or leaving a BITNET list is simple. One sends a message to the Listserv at the node on which the list is housed. For HISTORY, one sends the message to Listserv@FINHUTC.BITNET. Leave the subject header blank. To join a list, put the following in the body of the note:

SUB HISTORY [your name]

Close the note and send it. To leave a list, in the body of the note type:


For a different list, substitute its name for HISTORY.

The ultimate value of the HISTORY list, and others like it, depends upon the willingness of professional historians to participate. At present, HISTORY has only 140 members, yet there must be thousands of historians in the world who have personal computers, can afford a modem, and would be provided with an e-mail account upon request. Their participation would broaden and deepen the scope of the discussion. With a larger membership, more departments would be willing to post job and programmatic announcements, and more professional associations would be willing to post programs. HISTORY might become the means by which professional historians throughout the world could communicate rapidly with each other and create a true community of scholars, unbound by institutional or national constrictions.

HISTORY's existence also suggests the need for more e-mail discussion groups for historians. Although its general nature is a strength, it is not an adequate forum for historians with particular interests, for they have to handle mail of little or no interest to them. New lists should be created to serve the specific interests within the international community of historians and those with related interests. Why not have one list for medievalists, another for specialists in French history, and still another for women's history? HISTORY could still serve as a general list while these other lists focus on more limited topics. Managing a list requires a few hours a week, but surely there are persons willing to perform this professional service just as there are colleges and universities willing to support such an endeavor because it would give the institution greater visibility.

In the meantime, HISTORY will continue to provide food for thought, contact with historians throughout the world, and, at times, a lot of amusement as contributors square off against each other as academics are so apt to do.

Donald J. Mabry

From mailer@oduvm.bitnet Mon Feb 4 15:26:08 1991
Received: by Ra.MsState.Edu (4.1/6.5m-FWP);
id AA28983; Mon, 4 Feb 91 15:26:07 CST
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Date: Mon, 04 Feb 91 16:05:40 EST
From: Harold Wilson
Subject: Perspectives
To: Don Mabry
Status: RO

Don, do you have an electronic copy of your article in Perspectives? If so, would you kindly send me the file. I would like to use the material in a class, if that is acceptable. Regards, Harold Wilson

From Tue Feb 5 07:33:45 1991
Received: from by Ra.MsState.Edu (4.1/6.5m-FWP);
id AA16954; Tue, 5 Feb 91 07:33:43 CST
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Date: Mon, 4 Feb 91 14:08:56 EST
Reply-To: History
From: Harold Wilson
Subject: E-Mail
To: Multiple recipients
Status: RO

Well, Donald Mabry has done it again! He has put us on the front page of the American Historical Association's _Perspectives_ for February in an article entitled "Electronic Mail and Historians." He gives a good description what what we do, and few will quibble with his conclusion that "the ultimate value of the HISTORY list, and others like it, depends upon the willingness of professional historians to participate."

From MU165013@WVNVAXA.WVNET.EDU Tue Feb 5 07:47:35 1991
Received: from WVNVAXA.WVNET.EDU by Ra.MsState.Edu (4.1/6.5m-FWP);
id AA17665; Tue, 5 Feb 91 07:47:24 CST
Date: Tue, 5 Feb 1991 08:47 EST
Subject: HISTORY
To: Message-Id: <4E76EC72606017B7@WVNVMS.WVNET.EDU> X-Envelope-To:
X-Vms-To: IN%""
Status: RO

February 5, 1991

Donald J. Mabry,

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Mike McCarthy, and I am pursuing both a B.A. and an M.A. at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. Yesterday, the chair of Marshall's history dept., Dr. Donna Spindel, gave me a copy of your article in the Feb. issue of PERSPECTIVES. I read it with great interest, and I wish to respond.

Last semester I had an idea for an all-electronic historical journal. The benefits would be tremendous, including conservation of paper and the ability to do a word-serach to skim an article. The forum that you describe in your article sounds like it could achieve a similar purpose. Hence, I wish to pursue this avenue.

As Historian of Marshall's Phi Alpha Theta (history honorary), I believe that managing a node on this network of yours would be a worthwhile endeavor for our chapter. [So I had him create BYRD. --Don Mabry] Please send me some information on what exactly needs to be done. I am not sure what topic would be best for us to pursue, although perhaps an student discussion forum would be valuable if there is enough interest.

Again, I am very interested in your electronic forum. I would like to do what I can to help you. Please let me know what I can do.


Mike McCarthy

P.S. I am not too familiar with uploading files to the VAX system, so do not assume too much prior knowledge on my part.


From dm79@umail.UMD.EDU Tue Feb 5 12:47:54 1991
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id AA00540; Tue, 5 Feb 91 13:46:39 EST
Message-Id: <9102051846.AA00540@umail.UMD.EDU> Date: Tue, 05 Feb 91 13:46 EST
From: "David J. MURPHY"
Subject: Perspectives Article
Status: RO

Dear Professor Mabry,

Your article on email was interesting. I am a graduate student at Maryland and have used email for a while to "talk" with a number of friends in academia and the computer industry. I am familiar with the Internt fora, but as Maryland isn't connected to bitnet (and I am a tad too lazy to run everything through a gate), I haven't explored anything on the "other" network. I think I will now.

You may have heard this already, but the Society for the History of Technology is sponsoring a jobs board on internet for historians of science and technology. I believe the History of Science people are co-sponsors.

David Murphy


From mailer@unccvm.bitnet Wed Feb 6 08:48:29 1991
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7309; Wed, 06 Feb 91 09:43:05 EST
Date: Wed, 06 Feb 91 09:37:37 EST
From: Leonard T Roberts Subject: Bitnet Article
To: Don
Status: RO

I read on the list of your article on Bitnet being published (I forgot the name of the magazine). I don't get the publication and it is not in the library here. Do you have a copy that you can email me?

If you don't have a copy available, could you please send me the name of the magazine where the article appeared; perhaps someone in the History Department will have a copy.



From MU165013@WVNVAXA.WVNET.EDU Wed Feb 6 10:21:24 1991
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Date: Wed, 6 Feb 1991 11:20 EST
Subject: Re: HISTORY
To: djm1@Ra.MsState.Edu
Message-Id: <2D15BCE260602F7F@WVNVMS.WVNET.EDU>
X-Envelope-To: djm1@Ra.MsState.Edu
X-Vms-To: IN%"djm1@Ra.MsState.Edu"
Status: RO

Don Mabry,

Thank you very much for the info. I registered for the HISTORY group. The idea of the E-Mail directory is very interesting (and quite valuable). Dr. Spindel (Marshall's chair) was lamenting the lack of one just the other day. Please send the Latin American Studies list and/or info if you get the chance. The only problem I can see with me taking on this directory project is that I will be finishing my M.A. here at Marshall in one or two semesters. I fear that the project might not survive my transfer to a Ph.D. granting institution, and I would hate to see an endeavor of this magnitude and importance stall. I certainly will consider the possibilites, however.

Thanks again for all your help.


FTP Site

Message 49: From @CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU:LHNELSON@UKANVM.BITNET Fri Aug 30 07:43:53 1991 Received: from CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU by Ra.MsState.Edu (4.1/6.5m-FWP); id AA23668; Fri, 30 Aug 91 07:43:51 CDT Received: from UKANVM.BITNET by CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU (IBM VM SMTP R1.2.2MX) with BSMT P id 9758; Fri, 30 Aug 91 08:43:55 EDT Received: from UKANVM (LHNELSON) by UKANVM.BITNET (Mailer R2.07) with BSMTP id 1422; Fri, 30 Aug 91 02:38:17 CST Date: Fri, 30 Aug 91 02:21:28 CST From: "Lynn H. Nelson" Subject: FTP SITE

To: djm1

Hello, Don;

I don't want to bother you now, but ask you a few things to consider while mowing the lawn. I now have and am ready to start up.

I would like to concentrate for the time being on texts and aids (such our Latin word list, and so forth.

1. Our directory format should fit yours. How would you like us to arrange things?

2. If we expect a sizable body of material, we need some uniform filenaming system that will handle a large number of items. What would you like? Accession number and short description? Or site plus number, such as R58, M16?

3. If we share a catalogue, and other sites join later, we will need some some uniform format. It would be great if it were machine searchable by keywords, but that would take considerable planning -- unless there is a program that handles such things?

I am sure that there are other issues of coordination. The parameters, sir, are yours to set.

You wrote Camilo in English; I wrote in bad Spanish. I hope that I didn't confuse him more than you enlightened him.




The archive has been organized into subdirectories to make it easier to locate files. If one looks only at docs/history, one will see only the names of the subdirectories plus the filelist. To get into the subdirectories, you will have to do a change directory command (cd), or, if you want a file, you will have to specify the full path. For example, if you want article.E-Mail, you have to specify: docs/history/articles/article.E-Mail Those persons doing this interactively via the FTP protocol will simply changes directories but those retrieving via a mail program need to specify the path.


Don Mabry, Department of History, Mississippi State University (Internet) djm1@msstate (BITNET)


article.E-Mail --from AHA Perspectives article.alindia.txt --Alexander the Great article.attila.txt --Attila the Hun article.carpentry.medieval article.neolith.txt --Neolithic warfare article.vietnam.songs ===================================================================== === docs/history/directories

HSTDIR.TXT--e-mail addresses and field of interest Military-Addresses--The server has a whois program bios.europe--e-mail addresses of people interest in European history bios.history--consolidated e-mail directory bios.other--e-mail addresses of non-Europe, non-U.S. addresses for history of science addresses for persons interested in U.S. history college-email.text--how to look up addresses at some universities directory.Canada.list--e-mail addresses for Canadian Historical Assoc. to look up addresses in the U.K. lasnet.members--LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES ASSOCIATION ===================================================================== === docs/history/bibliographies

biblio.Andrew.Jackson biblio.american.indian.movement biblio.socialism.france ===================================================================== === docs/history/databases

data.archives--Georgetown master list databank.rutgers database.canada.CULDAT--Info on how to access Canadian databases database.columbus--how to access database of Columbus and Age of Discovery to search list archives on a BITNET LISTSERV ===================================================================== === docs/history/diaries

diary.iraqi diary.iraqi.french diary.koren diary.werman ===================================================================== === docs/history/gifs

NOTE: THESE MAY BE RETRIEVED IN BINARY FORMAT! creation.gif--Michaelangelo gnp.gif--US Gross National Product, spending, defict graphic lush.gif--a demo of high resolution graphics, best on VGA venus.gif--Boticelli vermeer.gif filelist.NASA.GIF--list of images from space ===================================================================== === docs/history/libraries [must specify binary before the get command] catalist.library.window libsearch--Written in C, will run in UNIX HYTELN30.ZIP--approx. 480K program for PCs written for VAX but tells how to access libraries in the world, campuswide info systems, and other resources. ===================================================================== === docs/history/papers paper.VaticanII.Jews paper.WWI.military report.NHPRC ===================================================================== === docs/history/progams

Must specify binary before the get command those Control characters out of NOTIS downloads to display GIF files unzip41.exe--self-extracting unzipping programs for DOS machines ===================================================================== === docs/history/newsletters

NCHE.9105--[U.S.] National Council on History Education Newsletter NCHE.9106 NCHE.91176 REACH--Humanities Newsletter from Univ. of Cal, Santa Barbara REACH.9101 REACH.9103 REACH.9105 ===================================================================== === docs/history/resources and get info on U.S. cities glasgow.newsletter--Get History News from Univ of Glasgow ftp.sites--list of anonymous FTP sites interest-groups.txt--List of discussion lists internet.library--THE list of internet-accessible libraries ===================================================================== === docs/history/e-documents

victoria.counties.history--Volumes published to date and how to order oxford.text.archives--texts in electronic form oxford.text.order.form of U.S. History of CD-ROM ===================================================================== === docs/history/netuse

electronic.biblio.cite--How to cite e-mail, e-journals, etc. filelist--contents of docs/history on course.Renaissance.BBS--how to teach a course via computer communications to obtain files at FTP sites that allow anonymous login lists.history--electronic mail lists of intetest to historians wholeguide.txt--Big document on Internet resources ===================================================================== === docs/history/songs



Thomas Zielke

History at your Fingertips.

Electronic Information and Communication for Historians.


A few years ago, William H. Gates invented the slogan "Information at your fingertips". This, he said, was to mean a new generation of computer software that should be able to give you any information you need with just a few keystrokes, no matter if it is a text, a picture, a table, a chart - virtually all information stored in your computer should then be within easy reach of the user. I think Bill Gates has not promised too much - at least he is on a good path to reach this ambitious goal within the next, let's say, ten or twenty years, and it seems that this slogan will indeed prove more successful than the last one about the "Paperless Office" - actually I myself seem to waste more paper than ever before. Now we humble historians, however, are on quite a similar path - of course it is not as ambitious as Bill Gates' great vision, but our new slogan seems to bear as much potential for a revolution and it seems at the moment that we are much nearer to our goal - our own version of Microsoft's slogan is 'History at your Fingertips'.

Now what is the meaning of this slogan? It is common knowledge that these days both information and communication are more important than ever before - not only in the world of politics, finance or business, but also in our world of science, teaching and research. On the other hand, we historians now have learned that time really is money, and the speed of progress in our science has grown faster and faster in the last few decades. Additionally, the historian who dedicates all of his work to one single topic or problem and works on it all by himself, without any help from colleagues or assistants has almost become a figure of the past - today, we historians all need to communicate with each other and we need to exchange information with each other, and in some sub-disciplines of history it has become an absolute necessity to work together in groups, and this on a nationwide, if not on an international range.

So what our slogan "History at your Fingertips" means, and what we want to achieve in the very near future is to make information and communication available to every historian around the world, and this in a way faster and much more comfortable than ever before. I know - this does sound very ambitious and very expensive, but actually all this is possible today; unlike Bill Gates we do not need new hardware nor do we need new software, all we need to do is to use the resources that are available right now.


Communication via the computer - in our days of worldwide computer networks, we find that especially our colleagues from the natural (or exact, as some still like to call them) sciences, and even more those from the computer sciences are more and more using the computer as a communication device. Electronic mail seems to be the magic word of our age: You type a letter just as you would normally do on your computer, and then you simply press a button and the letter is sent away - no paper, no envelope, not even a stamp is needed. Electronic communication is indeed a fast and reliable way of communicating - once a letter is sent, it will reach the recipient in less than one hour, even if the letter has to cross the Atlantic Ocean on its way, and it often takes only minutes for a letter to arrive at its destination. Apart from sending letters, every kind of electronic document can be sent via the net, be it a scanned page of a book, a map, a picture or a photograph or just a data file - if it can be stored on a diskette, it can also be sent as e-mail. Some systems also allow to use the net just like a telephone line: You type in a question, and your partner receives it within seconds and gives you the answer - and it does not matter in which state, country or continent your partner is, nor does it matter which network, computer or program he uses.

But what is needed to get access to this wonderland of electronic communication? Today, nearly every university or institution offers free access to at least one of the world-wide computer networks, the BITNET or the InterNet, for their members. Just ask your local computer center's staff, and they will certainly tell you what to do to use this network connection. The rest is similarly easy - if you know how to log in into your system (and this can be a mainframe system, a Local Area Network of several PCs or just a simple PC with a modem that can connect to some remote system with BITNET- or InterNet- access), there is not much more to know - some basic knowledge about how to type a letter on your specific system, some four or five commands to send and receive mail and you are ready to use your system's mailing capabilities. Some more sophisticated systems even have menu-based mailing systems which are operated with just a few keystrokes, and if you need any help, a simple keystroke will get you any help and information you need to have - so electronic communication really is just as simple as using a telephone or a fax or typing a letter. You see: there really is nothing arcane or mysterious about electronic communication, and one does not have to be an expert, or have a programmer or a computer scientist at one's side to use it.

I had my first contact with electronic communication in 1987. To me, it was then an undiscovered country - it was in fact a mere coincidence that I heard of it at all. I was working on a project then where we had to transcribe and store a considerable amount of historical tax data for statistical analysis. We had to use two different systems, a brand-new and highly expensive high-end XT-computer (which was the first computer to be installed at our institute) and our university's new mainframe system, and of course we had many questions concerning hardware and software. On one of these days, when I was at our computer center's information desk again, the clerk asked me whether I might possibly be interested in joing a special e-mail forum where I could ask all my questions and have them answered by an international expert forum. Naturally, I was interested, and I was given a small but highly informative introduction brochure to read.

One chapter was dedicated to the LISTSERV-facilities, a computerized message distribution service which offers a large variety of public discussion groups, the so-called lists. These lists, I learned, are actually a list of persons (or, more precisely: their electronic addresses) who want to discuss a specific topic with a larger group via the net. To become a member of such a list, one simply sends a one-line subscription-command to a LISTSERV-site giving the name of the list one wants to join and one's name. After this request has been accepted (which usually only takes a few seconds), one receives a copy of all mail contributions that are sent to list, and one can of course send own contributions to the list as well. All this sounded very interesting to me, and with a few hints and tips I managed to join a few of those discussion groups where people talked about programming and computers. It was amazing - whenever I had a problem, I just had to send it to the forum, and soon afterwards I received a large number of tips, ideas and even whole source program texts to solve my problems. It really was like having a whole staff of experts sitting in the office next door, just waiting for me to ask for help.

One of those countless letters gave me a hint that there was a list that was dedicated to the discussion of history in all its aspects. The name of this list was (what else could it have been?) HISTORY, and to hear of it and to join it was only a matter of seconds. At this time, the list was physically located somewhere in Finland - Helsinki University of Technology, to be more exact - and had about 90 members (of which a considerable number are still on the list), and the initiator and list-owner (which is what the person is called who does all the necessary adminstrative work and who is finally responsible for the list) was a Finnish scholar at that time. Soon I noticed HISTORY's unique atmosphere - the conversation was lively, sometimes a bit chatty, but always very informative, and I felt somewhat reminded of a discussion which could as well take place in the corridor of my department. The variety of topics was enormous - it ranged from Ancient History to the Second World-War, from Social History to Historiography, from teaching History to research problems; virtually every discipline and aspect of history was covered on this list. Again - whenever I had a question, I only had to send it to HISTORY and to wait for all the answers to come in.

Some months later, the Postmaster of HISTORY's home-node informed the list-members that the owner of the list had obviously moved to new duties and was no longer available for maintaining the list. In addition, we were told - or rather: warned - that if nobody would volunteer to become owner of this list, the list would be closed and deleted. A few list-members, including me, immediately offered to fulfil the duties of owning the list. I did not really think that I would be the one to be chosen, but a few days later I received a letter from the Postmaster informing me that, since I was the only volunteer from Europe and they preferred to have a list-owner whose home-node was as near as possible to HISTORY's node, I had been made the owner of the HISTORY list. Imagine my surprise and horror - there I was, owning a list consisting of a large number of scholars from all around the world, with virtually no idea what to do. However, as LISTSERV is one of the best-documented software-systems I have ever seen, I was soon provided with whole stacks of material how to operate a list - and to my great relief I found out that it really was not that difficult to do - a simple set of four of five commands were all I needed to do the job, and the Postmaster of HISTORY's node, Mr. Salminen, was so kind to offer me any help and assistance I needed in my first days as a list-owner.

Now what exactly does it mean to be a list-owner? As a list-owner, one's main task is to keep the list running: if there are problems with mail returned to LISTSERV because of invalid addresses, it's the list- owner's duty to fix that problem, normally by stopping distribution of mail to the address in question or by deleting that address from the list; and if the whole list comes to a stand-still due to a LISTSERV-problem, the list-owner has to contact the people that are in charge of LISTSERV to find and solve the problem. Additionally, the list-owner helps people who are experiencing problems with the list or who just need information about the list and how to join the discussion group- but this is only the easy part of the job.

The list-owner is also a kind of ombudsman for the whole group: Whenever a list-member receives unwanted or even offensive mail, the list-owner is the person to contact and who has to take proper actions to solve the problem. In most cases, a short, polite letter to the person who caused the problem will do, but sometimes one meets a situation where harder measures are unavoidable; ranging from temporarily removing the offender from the list to having the person in question withdrawn further access to the net. Luckily, I have never had to go this far - in fact I often find that the members of HISTORY have, as a group, evolved a sense of responsibility, discipline and control, a set of rules that helps to avoid most of the problems that may come up in a large and heterogenous group of people. But what, you may ask yourselves, is the HISTORY list like? I think one can describe HISTORY best as by the first impression I had of it: a kind of electronic Common Room where you find your friends and colleagues discussing various things in a number of small groups, where questions are asked and answered, where you can find information and help - or just chat about things and problems that you would normally discuss with colleagues.

So when you first enter the HISTORY community, you might find the group discussing things you would not have expected - we have been, for example, discussing the Los Angeles riots, the German re-unification, H. Ross Perot' campaign or whatever is a current issue. Certainly, you might expect us discussing History instead - but then whatever we discuss is being looked at from the historian's point of view, and every of those 'unexpected' discussions reflect the way we historians see the world that surrounds us. And what is more, these discussions reflect the perspectives of the American historian, the French historian, the German historian, and I personally find that I this is as important as discussing history itself - these discussions help us understand the views and opinions of our colleagues in other countries. And is it not true that especially we historians must learn to see things from more than one point of view? In that respect, HISTORY can certainly be a help in reaching the historian's goal of being as objective as possible.

Nevertheless: Whoever wants to discuss a topic or a specific problem that is related to history can feel free to bring up a new discussion about whatever he or she would like to have discussed in our forum, be it Medieval History, American History, political history - you will always find some partners for your discussion. Sometimes some list-member will point you to another, perhaps more specialized forum which is also discussing your topic at the moment, or you may as well find yourself in a very lively and intense private correspondence with one or two list members very soon.

Besides being a forum for discussing history and related topics, HISTORY also acts as an information service - we receive conference announcements, calls for papers, information about new e-journals, bibliographies and data files that have been made accessible to the public, invitations for new, specialized LISTSERV-lists, and if you need tips which books to use in your class or for your paper, you will get most certainly get several recommendations, if not even a complete bibliography. As you see - with HISTORY, we historians have a fantastic source for information, and all you have to do is to go and collect the information you need.


After a few months as a list-owner, I noticed that HISTORY had from its small beginnings grown to almost 180 subscribers, most of them from the USA and Canada. The communication was livelier than ever, and on some days almost 80 pieces of mail from HISTORY arrived in my mailbox. Since HISTORY was then physically located in Finland, this meant that every single contribution from, let's say, the United States, had to be transmitted across the Atlantic and then via France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden till it would finally reach Finland where it would be re-distributed to the subscribers - and then, of course, the mail had to travel all the way back. This whole process took quite some time as well as it used up a considerable amount of network resources, and whenever one of the various communication links on the way to Helsinki was down for a while, communication with HISTORY was down, too. I was then thinking about moving HISTORY to a new home site somewhere in the U.S., but I knew this would only mean shifting the problem, not solving it.

I discussed the problem with the Postmaster responsible for HISTORY, and he suggested to use LISTSERV's peered-list feature. This feature allows large lists to be split up into a number of smaller lists, all of which are then connected with the other lists to form a kind of sub-network. In a second step, all subscriptions are moved to their nearest list-site - this is done with one single LISTSERV command, as LISTSERV 'knows' of all list sites that are available and can calculate which of these sites is nearest to which subscriber. Additionally, LISTSERV automatically informs every subscriber that he or she is served by another node from that time on. After these operations have been completed, a contribution sent to the list is handled in a different way than on a single-sited list: The LISTSERV-installation which receives the mail first distributes it to all subscribers on the local list. After that, another copy is sent to the adjacent list-sites, which then distribute it to their local list of subscribers and pass it on to their neighbour-lists until the last site in the chain is reached. This system, of course, considerably speeds up the process of mail distribution and makes the whole list-traffic less vulnerable to broken communication links, since even if a link between two sub-lists is down, the lists that are connected can still communicate, and should all inter-list links break down for some time, one can still communicate with the subscribers on one's local list.

As soon as I knew about this feature, I contacted several postmasters to find out if any of them was willing to host HISTORY at his node. Within two weeks, I received positive answers from a number of sites in the U.S., and I decided to have at least two HISTORY-sites there, as the number of subscribers from North America had grown even higher in the meantime. The first new HISTORY site was opened in Buffalo, followed by another site at the Rutgers University, and a few weeks later I could proudly announce the opening of yet another site at the University of Missouri at Rolla. The last node on the American continent has been installed here, at the University of Kansas, several months ago. On my side of the Atlantic, things took a bit longer, but after some negotiations I was able to add the University College of Dublin and the Gesellschaft fuer wissenschaftliche Datenverarbeitung at Goettingen to my list of HISTORY sites. The latest new sub-list is located in Czechoslovakia - this node has been in operation for just a few months now.

Nodename Location Country Subscribers

CSEARN Czech Technical University, Prague Czechoslovakia 2

DGOGWDG1 Gesellschaft fuer wissenschaftliche Datenverarbeitung, Goettingen Germany 16

FINHUTC Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki, Finland 7

IRLEARN University College Dublin, Dublin Ireland 24

RUTVM1 Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ USA 188

UBVM State University of NewYork at Buffalo, NY USA 61

UKANVM University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas USA 19

UMRVMB University of Missouri, Rolla USA 10

Table 1: Current HISTORY nodes

So what used to be managed by one single node is now done by altogether eight nodes. The nodes at Buffalo and Dublin form the trans-Atlantic backbone, every piece of HISTORY mail is being sent via this link to reach the - respectively - other continent. From Ireland, HISTORY-links go to Finland and Germany, and the Czechoslovakian node is linked to HISTORY through Germany. The node at Buffalo is connected to Rutgers and Kansas, while the Missouri-node is connected via Rutgers. This new structure, as complex as it may appear, was quite easy to install, and it did in fact speed up the process of message re-distribution dramatically - for some subscribers it now took only seconds to receive the acknowledgement that their contribution had been received by LISTSERV, and I myself was able to receive mail from HISTORY only ten to twenty minutes after the sender had transmitted it to his HISTORY site.

The subscribers of HISTORY, however, normally do not notice that HISTORY is split up in a number of sub-lists. For them, the only change was that they had to direct their mail to another node than before, while the system itself behaved just as if it consisted of one single list. Maintaining the list became more comfortable, too. Before, I always had to wait one or even two days whenever I told LISTSERV to send me a copy of the list for maintenance, and I what I received was a rather large file that was a bit awkward to handle on my system. A major problem then was that from the moment I was sent the list until the time the changed file arrived at the LISTSERV site the whole list was 'locked', which means that during that time LISTSERV did not accept any subscriptions to the list - sometimes as long as four or five days. After splitting up the list all I had to do was to order a copy of just those sub-lists that needed maintenance, while the rest of the lists could remain totally operative, which made things much more convenient for the users of HISTORY and for me as the list-owner. Some of the new history lists have, by the way, been set up in a similar way. Both SOVHIST and RUSHIST, for example, are split up in four sub-lists which are located at USCVM, UMRVMB (Rolla), DOSUNI1 (Osnabrueck, Germany) and CSEARN (Czechoslovakia), and I assume that some more lists are going to follow our example.

At this point, I'd like to point out that HISTORY with its whole structure is remotely operated from a terminal in Oldenburg, Germany - it is not necessary to have a LISTSERV installed at one's local site, nor is it needed to have an account at the node where your list is located. All LISTSERV commands can be sent via e-mail or interactive messages, so it is no problem at all to have a list located at a site hundreds of miles away from wherever you are - and this means that everybody who has access to electronic mail facilities can be a list-owner.


In the following months after its re-structuring, HISTORY continually grew larger and larger, and it soon reached the number of 250 subscribers. On some days, more than 100 messages were sent via HISTORY, and we often had four or five discussions on the list simultaneously. Very soon I received private letters from several subscribers whether it would be possible to have some of the various discussions on HISTORY moved to separate, specialized lists. I tried to find out if there were such lists, but I only found a few, and none of these were discussing what my subscribers wanted to discuss - so there was obviously a great need for more history-related lists.

I decided to ask the list if some of the members might be interested in becoming list-owners themselves, and I was amazed to hear that quite a few subscribers had already thought of starting their own lists, but did not know how to do so. I told them that I would of course provide them with every information they might need and began asking the forum which discussion list they would like to have on the net. I received about ten suggestions and managed to find some people to volunteer as a future list-owner, while I myself created two new groups - EMHIST-L for the discussion of Early Modern History and GRMNHIST for German History.

A few months ago I asked again whether there was any need for new discussion groups, and I received about twenty letters, all full with ideas and requests for new lists. As a result, we have about ten new lists on the net since then, and I feel encouraged to start a new round of list-creation by the end of this year - as far as I can see, there are a lot of topics that would be worth a special list. Just to give a few examples of recently opened lists: we now have a list for Islamic history, one for the history of law, one for medieval history, one for the history of the American West, another one for Soviet history and a list for Russian history - there are many more, of course, but to name them all here would take too much time. In addition, a list for the discussion of Social History has been opened only a few days ago, and we hope to have a new special list for Women's History very soon.

However, HISTORY has grown even larger since then, and it seems that it is still growing. I had in fact thought that if we introduced new specialized lists, a larger number of subscribers would leave HISTORY and move to those new lists, but though the new lists were more or less stormed with subscriptions from HISTORY-members, these subscribers did stay participantss of HISTORY, too. It seems that they discuss their special interests and questions on specialized lists, while they come to HISTORY to discuss more general issues - in fact, HISTORY has since then become more and more like a kind of electronic Common Room.

A recent count showed that HISTORY now has about 320 subscribers from about 20 countries, with the majority of subscribers coming from the USA. A number of the subscriptions are not from individual persons but from so-called newsgroups or local message re-distribution services, so we may suspect that the actual number of readers is even higher - some rough estimations go as far as to more than 600 regular readers. Of course, these numbers are subject to seasonal changes - we notice quite a number of people leaving the list during the summer (which is the time when students leave university and lose their e-mail accounts), while at the end of summer there is a wave of new subscriptions to our lists, but in the long term there is a continuing rise in the number of subscriptions. So if we regard the numbers above, I think it would not be too audacious to say that HISTORY is one of the most successful electronic discussion groups in the Humanities.


As you can see, with our HISTORY list and all its affiliates we have quite a lot of facilities to offer in the area of electronic communication for historians. However, so far we have only been scratching the surface. Our plans go as far as to create a world-wide federation of all these lists - the History Network. While we were still in the process of creating new discussion groups, Professor Lynn Nelson and I began discussing if it would make sense to form a kind of co-operation between all existing and future history-related lists to make information exchange between all those faster and more effective. I found this idea a rather fascinating one and began immediately to set up a new list named HISTOWNR - a list that should serve as a discussion forum for those persons who own and maintain history-related lists as well as a kind of information exchange where people can send whatever they feel might be interesting for more than one list, so that those list-owners who are members of HISTOWNR can re-distribute this information to their own lists. HISTOWNR is also a forum that provides help and assistance to all those who want to create a new list but need information on how to do this. We assist them in finding a host site for their list, help them in the technical process of creating the list and provide them with all the manuals they need, and after the new list has been opened, we help the owner solving all the problems that may occur.

HISTOWNR, however, is only the first step towards the History Network. Our next step will be the creation of a History Network Committee whose members will come from the HISTOWNR group and whose primary task will be to plan the future activities of the Network and to set up a kind of official charter for the History Network which will describe the nature, the purpose, the tasks and the activities of this institution.

One of these future tasks of the Network will be the creation of even more electronic discussion groups, until we reach a point where there is a specialized forum for virtually every period, region and sub- discipline of history, so that every potential subscriber will be able to find at least one forum that covers his particular fields of interest. The owners of these groups will find their forum in the already existing HISTOWNR list which will provide technical help and assistance as well as it will serve as a forum for administrative questions. A first step in the latter direction has already been made, as we will soon begin setting up a model guide for history discussion lists providing both technical information for the user and a kind of 'e-mail manner book'.

Additionally, the History Network Commitee will co-ordinate all activities in and around the History Network - apart from being the Network's top instance of information and assistance for list-owners and subscribers it will also maintain contacts to institutions, historians' associations, universities, journals and the press. For example, we hope to establish a co-operation with the Gutenberg Project in the near future, and we intend to have regular contacts with the AHC, the Humanities Computing Faculty of UCSB and the Canadian Historians' Association.

Another task of the History Network will be to make more and more electronic resources available. Besides all the present and future history discussion lists, we need to have a larger number of electronic archive sites within easy reach of the e-netted historian - archives that store papers or even whole books, sources, lectures, bibliographies, pictures and many more. We do have already two such sites, one right here at the University of Kansas and one at Mississippi State University, but this certainly is not enough for the masses of data that are only waiting to made available for public access. Our goal is to have at least one FTP-site for every list associated with the History Network as well as a collection of texts, files and utility programs that should be available at several sites within easy reach. (Those of you who are interested in hearing more about FTP-servers for historians might be interested in Professor Mabry's paper that will be presented later in this session).

Of course, we have many more plans for the History Network. Imagine, for example, conferences and congresses being held via the net, where papers are presented and discussed while you do not have to travel at all but can follow every single session on the screen of your computer. You might have noticed the short note in the program of this conference asking all the participants to have an electronic copy of their paper stored on this university's FTP-server - this is our first experiment in this area, and we hope that, if this will prove successful, other universities will follow our example. Another highly promising idea is to have national or even international research groups work together through a special, private discussion list which allows them to discuss their work and exchange all information just as easy as if the members of the group had their offices just across the corridor. Even the exchange of information on your campus or in your faculty would be much more comfortable with the aid of a message distribution service - all information presented on your screen for quick selection and retrieval, without the need to have stacks of paper copied and carried through the whole department, and with one or two keystrokes you could send important information or announcements to your colleagues of other universities. Your students could have texts, bibliographies and sources as well as the text of your lectures available on a local file-server, and you could as well answer their questions via e-mail.

Again, the tools and resources for all these services are already existing - and the History Network will be glad to help and assist all those who want to make use of these facilities. Still, there is one major problem that we must deal with - it is the status of the work that all those who are maintaining file-servers, editing e-journals or moderating discussion lists do for our academic community.

For example, we have to convince our faculties and our colleagues that e-mail is not just a mere waste of time, but a valuable and comfortable tool. We must find more professional acceptance for e-journals - what makes a printed journal more serious and important than an e-journal, especially when the latter is more easily available and can be produced and distributed in a much easier - and cheaper - way? And finally, the work we do out there in the networks for our academic world must start to win at least some recognition in the academic community itself - the owner of a list or the editor of an e-journal is in quite a similar position as the editor of any other printed newsletter or journal, so why is the work of the latter highly recognized and reputed while the first is not? Working as a list-owner or as an editor of an e-journal is in fact a highly responsible task, and this work is done in and for an international forum, but at the moment, all of us who are helping to offer this large number of communication services and facilities are still lacking the support they need to accomplish all their tasks and duties - the History Network will hopefully be able to offer at least some help and support, but still there will be a great need the support of our universities, faculties and colleagues. And I am not speaking of mere technical support, of course.

Actually, we all do all this work on a more or less voluntary basis, in our spare-time, our lunch-break or after office-hours - so far, I have not heard of any employer who allows a list-owner to dedicate an hour or even half an hour of his working hours to his list. Naturally, I do not mean to persuade universities and institutions to offer jobs and positions wholly dedicated to e-communication - I am not sure whether it would make sense for any institution to have a full-time list-owner. But it would be a good thing if our employers were to recognize that the work we do out there in the net might make the name of our universities and institutes known all over the world. They are, in fact, right now missing a chance to gain some more, perhaps worldwide, reputation for their institution - for example, who of you has ever heard of my university, the Carl-von-Ossietzky-University Oldenburg, although this university seems to become more and more a center of electronic communication for historians?

It seems that at the moment, only a small number of us historians know about electronic communication at all. Especially in Europe, the number of those who use the computer as a communication tool is almost negligible - for example, in Germany there are less than five historians who are members of at least one of the various discussion lists, and we have a similar or even worse situation in France, the Netherlands, Spain or any other country on the continent. This is especially curious if we remember that, for example, France and Germany have gained some reputation in the field of History and Computing - I could easily name some German historians, institutions or Departments of History who have specialized in this field, but are not using their facilities to take part in electronic communication. The History Network will find a lot of work to do here as far as making our e-mail facilities known and available for the historian is concerned, and as soon as the History Network has been officially established, we hope to be able to publish a number of articles and papers in various history journals to show our colleagues the benefits of electronic communication.


History at Your Fingertips - in this short paper I was only able to give you a rather sketchy idea of the present and the future of electronic communication for historians - a more detailed overview about LISTSERV, for example, would fill more than twenty pages, and the list of all LISTSERV lists that are available is more than forty pages long, and if I were to start discussing all the technical details of e-mail, we would need hours, if not days to do so. (We will of course be glad to give you any detailed information you would like to have, and I hope that I will be able to answer most of your questions in a few moments.) Fortunately, as I hope to have made clear, it is not necessary at all to have a thorough understanding of what is happening behind the scenes of the network - for us, it is only interesting to know how to operate our e-mail facilities, and that, as you have seen, is just as easy as sending a fax or making a telephone call.

One last point needs to be considered here. We do not intend to have our academic community of historians communicate only via e-mail. It is a very different thing if you can talk to somebody personally, with the other person being in the same room as you are - there is a special quality in direct human contact e-mail will never have, and I myself would never want to miss the direct contact with my colleagues, where I can hear their voices and see their faces and their gestures. However, if this direct, personal contact is not possible for any reason, electronic mail provides a very effective, fast and reliable tool for communication. For example, while I was preparing this paper, I was in communication with Mr. Dell (whom I would like to thank for his kind help and assistance at this point) almost every day - without electronic communication I would have never been able to present this paper at this conference at all. We certainly do not want academic communication to lose any of all those qualities - instead, we want to add to these qualities.

Hopefully, we will soon be able to announce the formal foundation of the History Network - I have decided to send a first call for participants for a founding commitee within the next few weeks. However, it will still be a long and hard way before all our plans finally become reality, and there is a vast amount of work to be done before we can talk of electronic communication as a routine tool for the historian's work and research. As I have said before, all the resources we need are already available and are waiting for us to use them - what we need today is your help, your support and your assistance to make electronic communication the powerful and helpful tool it could be - for history, for the historian, for every one of us.

Thomas Zielke Historisches Seminar Carl-von-Ossietzky-Universitaet Oldenburg Postfach 2503 D-W-2900 Oldenburg Germany


Presented to the Mid-America Conference on History, meeting at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, September 17, 1992.

Transmitted through computer telecommunications.

Don Mabry
Professor of History
Associate Dean of Arts & Sciences
Mississippi State University

For years, the popular press as written of the forthcoming revolution in information technology, a revolution which would allow persons to communicate with others and to transfer large amounts of data without leaving home. The revolution has begun. Electronic mail (e-mail) is part of this revolution. If all worked well this morning, you saw a demonstration of this marvelous mode of communication. The purpose of this presentation is to alert you to the opportunity to retrieve files from electronic archives located in various parts of the world. Finally, I will explain how to obtain access to them. Although other archives will be mentioned, the internationally-accessible historical archive supported by Mississippi State University will be featured.

Several definitions are in order.

*Telnet* is the means by which a mainframe computer calls another mainframe computer via a telephone line, fiber optic cable, or satellite. Telnetting resembles a telephone call except that two machines are making the call. A common protocol is necessary so that the two machines can communicate with each other. Sometimes, when one is telnetting to an IBM mainframe from a non-IBM mainframe, this becomes an issue. Most computer centers have installed the software necessary to resolve this issue.

FILE TRANSFER PROTOCOL (FTP or ftp) is a special form of telnet, one by which a person can telnet to another computer and retrieve or place one or more files. FTP is the fastest means of transferring a file from one computer to another. Often, the transmission is at the rate of 52,000 BAUD, a speed which allows one to move a 500-page document thousands of miles in seconds. To do so, one must have an account not only on one's local mainframe computer connected to the Internet but also on the computer from which ones plans to retrieve a file. Fortunately, there are a number of computers that allow one to logon as anonymous and to use guest or one's e-mail address as the password. These are called anonymous ftp sites.

Electronic archives accessible through the Internet via FTP are not new. Computer scientists, engineers, and other technical persons have been using them for years. Commonly, the contents of these archives have usually been computer programs or technical files. The U.S. Army maintains the huge Simtel20 electronic archive at White Sands, New Mexico, for example. Most of the programs/files at these sites held little interest to historians, who tend to be more interested in text files or documents.

For those of us who were reading electronic mail discussion lists regularly, it became apparent that historians needed an anonymous FTP site where text files and programs of interest to historians could be stored and retrieved. Discussants had articles, papers, bibliographies, guides to collections, databases, and other materials they were willing to share but sending them through electronic mail was slow and cumbersome. Moreover, electronic mail requires the use of ASCII characters only, unless both the sender and the recipient used an encoding program. Photographic images binary programs, and word processing files written with such programs as WordPerfect could not be sent through e-mail.

Fortunately, Mississippi State University was willing to allocate space on Ra.MsState.Edu (, one of its mainframe computers, and, to provide technical support through its Computing Center. The Department of History and the College of Arts & Sciences was willing to allow one of their historians to dedicate some time to the creation of the anonymous FTP archive. As a Research I/Doctoral I university with both a strong college of liberal arts and sciences and state-of-the-art computer technology, the University was willing and able to further international humanistic scholarship. So, in February, 1991, the archive (docs/history) was born.

No one knew how much interest the archive might arouse nor how large it might become. The initial files were acquired on a haphazard basis, usually as a result of someone offering to send a paper or an article. Other files were added from sources in the public domain. In order to protect the integrity of the mainframe, only the archivist ( was allowed to place files into the archive. Contributors either e-mailed the files or allowed the archivist to ftp them from their site. The collection grew into millions of bytes and it became necessary to create subdirectories and a filelist. Because non-Internet users (such as persons on BITNET) were unable to access the archive, instructions for alternative retrieval method had to be posted on e-mail discussion lists. The time necessary to maintain the archive slowed the acquisition process. Moreover, it soon became clear that a single site would be unable to store all the files requested by the international historical profession.

Lynn Nelson of the University of Kansas responded by creating MALIN on and began discussions with Mabry and other historians about the possibility of creating specialized FTP archives for historians. MALIN became primarily a medieval history site. To provide continuity, docs/history and MALIN list each other's contents. The longterm goal is to make docs/history on a central or general archive with specialized archives scattered around the globe.

The filelist for docs/history is too long to print here. It is stored as filelist in the directory docs/history on Ra. One can obtain it through FTP or through the alternative method mentioned below. The archive is divided into subdirectories, using the UNIX file structure. Those familiar with MS-DOS will find the UNIX file structure to be very similar. When one ftps to, logs on as anonymous, and uses guest as a password, one enters the public [pub] directory. One has to tell Ra to change directories [cd] to docs/history. The command is cd docs/history. This directory contains the filelist and a list of the subdirectories. These subdirectories are: articles, bibliographies, databases [information on historical databases in Canada, Europe, and the United States], diaries, directories [of historians who use e-mail], e-documents [infor- mation on documents in electronic form], gifs [photographs], libraries [a list of Internet-accessible libraries and menu-driven programs to access them], netuse [information on how to use computer networks], newsletters, papers, programs, resources [information on electronic resources], songs [historical], and vietnam.war [primarily the logfiles of a Vietnam War discussion list]. Space and time do not permit a description of the contents of docs/history.

MALIN is a large archive as well. Lynn Nelson, who is attending the conference, can explain the contents of MALIN.

To do a ftp, you only have to know a few commands. Here are some basic commands with an explanation of them in brackets: cd [change directory]
DIR [display a directory]
ls [list]
ls -FC [list in columns, showing which are files, directories, or programs. Directories are marked with a /; programs with a *]
get [command the distant computer to transfer a file]
mget * [Interactively answer yes or no for retrieval of each file in a directory]
bye [end ftp connection]
quit [end ftp connection]
binary [You MUST specify binary for a GIF, program, or any binary file]

For those who are on BITNET and cannot do a FTP, one can retrieve documents by sending electronic mail to BITFTP@PUCC, using the commands listed above. Instructions on how to do this are in the file stored in docs/history/netuse. For those conferees who are interested, someone there can retrieve this document for you.

These comments barely cover the fundamentals but I will answer questions for you. We have an interactive connection established for that purpose. If you do not get your question answered or would like additional information, contact me later either through electronic mail (my userid and address are listed above) or via snail mail. The latter address is Don Mabry, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762. E-mail is much faster, by the way. Transit time between Mississippi State and KU is about 257 milliseconds.

Questioner for the audience: cdell= Valentine Smith, University of Missouri, Kansas City
djm1=Don Mabry, Mississippi State University
Message from Talk_Daemon@Ra.MsState.Edu at 10:03 ... ntalk: connection requested by
ntalk: respond with: ntalk
ntalk -----------------------------------------------------------------
- [Connection established]
djm1: Hello. How is it going?
cdell: Good morning. This is "Val."
djm1: Ready for questions and answers?
cdell: Give us a few sentences definition of FTP and how it works
djm1: A few sentences for a verbose person?
FTP is an electronic connection between computers but which uses a special software so that the user and the machines can take shortcuts. One uses the command ftp [site] to reach an archive. From that point, one logs in and then either gets or puts a file. It is an extremely fast means of transmitting information. Moreover, it allows one to transmit any file stored in an electronic format.


cdell: Who can submit or put a file into an FTP site?

djm1: Depends upon the local rules. Most sites have a gatekeeper. At Ra, I have to do the putting, so files have t be sent to me first. Some sites allow persons to put files into a public directory. Later, they are moved to an appropriate subdirectory.

cdell: What are some examples of major documentary or bibliographies at your site?

djm1: We have a bibliography on feudalism in the world which was contributed by Haines Brown. We also have a massive biblio on French Socialism.

We also maintain information and lists on the Oxford Text Archive project and the Victoria County History project.

I also have three diaries from the Persian Gulf War. I would also suggest that persons in French studies look at the information on the ARTFL project, a massive archive from which one can extract data (for a fee).

cdell: How does one find out what you have at your site?

djm1: ftp the document called filelist from this site. If one cannot do FTP, one can use BITFTP@PUCC. In this case, one mails to BITFTP@PUCC, leaving the subject blank, and using the FTP commands in the body of the message. PUCC will send back the appropriate file.

I also post information on HISTORY@UBVM AND and on L-CHA@UQAM, the Canadian Historical Association list.

cdell: Another question - how will archive integrity be maintained, say ten years from now?

djm1: Difficult question. I back up files onto floppy disks. The National Archives of the U.S. faces the problem of changes in the media. I think we are so new at this that we are not sure how we are going to solve the problem. The advantage is that ASCII characters are not likely to change and text files are often stored in ASCII. Any machine can read ASCII.

cdell: Can you tell us about the limits of space you have?

djm1: Fortunately, Mississippi State is commited to providing space. There has to be a limit but the issue has not arisen. Because we are strong in computation fields (our art department works in high-end computer visualization, for example), I suspect that the limit will not be reached for some time. When it arrives, we'll find a way to solve the problem. However, we are doubling the capacity of this machine and the President is in favor of the archive. That helps!
The longterm solution is for other archives, such as MALIN at KU, to be created. That way, we can distribute the load.

What we did at Mississippi State is meet an immediate need and demonstrate the efficacy of such an archive.

If conferees have unpublished papers they would like to store here, mail them to me. I can also accept diskettes, by the way, so one doesn't have to have an e-mail account.

For copyrighted materials, I must have permission.

cdell: OK, Thank you for your time and input We are about break

djm1: Hope that the session this morning was helpful to all. cdell: Yes it was, it has generated quite a discussion. Take care.

djm1: We send our best from Mississippi. Bye

cdell: Bye Connection closed. Exiting]