Knowledge generated by government funding should be freely available
Most of the research in UK universities and colleges is funded by the taxpayer through the government. However, the knowledge generated by this is often controlled by publishers who charge a lot of money, often hundreds or thousands of pounds per individual journal, for access. These charges put severe pressure on university funding, which mostly comes from (again) the taxpayer, and student fees. Research suffers as academics lose access, on cost grounds, to research in their field. Members of the public cannot afford access to knowledge they have indirectly funded. Despite many initiatives to make this taxpayer-funded knowledge openly accessible, most of it is still “locked” away in high cost publications. Publications and knowledge generated by research funded through the government, unless genuinely sensitive (e.g. military or atomic development), should be freely available, in their entirety, within a year. This should be a condition of research funding.
Denis Diderot’s humorous essay, Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown, has much to say about the nature of eighteenth-century consumer society. Delighted with the purchase of a beautiful scarlet dressing gown, Diderot discards his old one, only to find the elegance of the new gown at odds with the humble study of a philosophe. Finding himself unsatisfied with his surroundings, he sets about replacing the contents of the entire room – first the straw chair and simple table, substituted by a luxurious leather chair and bureau, then his plain wooden bookshelves find themselves usurped by antique armoire, and the bare walls are covered with mirrors, paintings and damask hangings. Alas, Diderot is left unhappier with the result than he was in his simple study, with his old gown. ‘Why didn’t I keep it? It was used to me and I was used to it… I was the absolute master of my old robe, I have become the slave of the new one.’ Continue reading →
Is the French Revolution really over? Since the beginning of the political campaign for the 2012 Presidential Elections in France, Eva Joly, candidate for Europe Ecologie-les Verts, brought up the theme twice in public debate.  On the 14 of July 2011, she created a scandal, by arguing against the militarisation of the National Fest. She then proposed the creation of a Maison de la Revolution Francaise in Paris. Continue reading →
Writing about the exhibition Visions romantiques des Cotes de la Manche (Romantic visions of the French northern coastline) in a blog focusing on the eighteenth century is not such a paradox. After all, the Bourbon Restoration to the throne of France in 1815 appears in many respects to be an anachronism. Eighty paintings are displayed in this travelling exhibition (see dates and places below). Few masterpieces, many Pompiers (official art), even though the exhibition’s curators affirmed their deliberate choice of excluding academic painters. Continue reading →
Within the past few years, a wealth of primary sources have been made readily available to historians through online archives. This has provided the opportunity for many to pursue subjects in new means and ways at an unprecedented faster rate. Bodies of text have been made easily accessible that otherwise would have taken years to accumulate and analyze. One of the most useful sources that has emerged for the eighteenth century are pamphlets. Continue reading →