Goose Commerce


About the title:

“Goose Commerce” is a (weak) pun on the early modern French concept of “la doux commerce” – the idea that commerce tends to make people more gentle in their manners, i.e. less likely to threaten each other with pointy or explody things, and so contribute to peace and progress. This concept was a truism among commercial men of the 19th century (my primary subjects). For more, see Albert O. Hirshman, The Passions and the Interests: political arguments for capitalism before its triumph (Princeton University Press, 1997; orig. 1977), esp. pp. 60-70

Also, I think geese are funny.

About me:

My name is Dael Norwood. At present, I am serving as a Cassius Marcellus Clay Fellow in the Department of History at Yale University, where I have the good fortune to be affiliated with the best-acronymed group in all of the academy, the Yale Early American Historians, or YEAH.

I did my Ph.D. work at Princeton University, and recently finished a term as a Schwartz Postdoctoral Fellow at the The New-York Historical Society and the New School University.

The posts here represent my own views, and my views alone – and not those of my employers, generous funders, or kind colleagues. Here’s my c.v. ; if you want to learn more, feel free to contact me using the e-mail below.

About the blog:

This blog is intended to be both a place to reflect on historical practice, and repository for the interesting flotsam and jetsam that comes out of of my research, but that doesn’t belong somewhere else.  It is, as the kids say, an academic blog, not a (more interesting) blog by an academic. Someday I may develop a personality, but that may have to wait until after tenure.

Perhaps the best explanation of what I’m after comes from C. Wright Mills’s description of the file every “intellectual craftsman” should keep (without, perhaps, his fear of modern life crushing the soul out of you). Which is a way of saying, most of what is here is for me; hopefully, though, you’ll find it of interest, too.

C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination (OUP, 2000; orig. 1959), pp.196-197 :

Scholarship is a choice of how to live as well as a choice of career; whether he knows it or not, the intellectual workman forms his own self as he works toward the perfection of his craft

What this means is that you must learn to use your life experiences in your intellectual work: continually to examine and interpret it. … But how can you do this? One answer is: you must set up a file, which is, I suppose, a sociologist’s way of saying: keep a journal. Many creative writers keep journals; the sociologist’s need for systemic reflection demands it.

In such a file as I am going to describe, there is joined personal experience and professional activities, studies under way and studies planned. In this file, you, as an intellectual craftsman, will try to get together what you are doing intellectually and what you are experiencing as a person. Here you will not be afraid to capture ‘fringe thoughts’ …

By keeping an adequate file and thus developing self-reflective habits, you learn how to keep your inner world awake. Whenever you feel strongly about events or ideas you must try not to let them pass from your mind, but instead to formulate them for your files and in so doing draw out their implications … The file also helps you build up the habit of writing. … In developing the file, you can experiment as a writer and thus, as they say, develop your powers of expression. To maintain a file is to engage in the controlled experience. [emphasis mine]

(h/t to Aaron Swartz at Raw Thought)

Contact Info:

You can reach me at my first name dot my last name at gee mail if something I’ve said needs correctin’ (often the case), or if you just want to say hi. I’m on social media of all kinds, but save my pithiest expressions for Twitter, @daelnorwood.

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