Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping…

Even in my department I occasionally have had to explain that “No, me teaching the Shang dynasty is not playing on home terrain. That’s like a historian of nineteenth century Europe teaching about emperor Augustus and the Roman empire, mkay?” Feel free to replace that with a similar 1800-2000 year interval of your choice. Chinese history is long. Like… Reallllly long…

A timeline is an obvious solution to make that clear to a tenure committee consisting of people who don’t even do history. But if “my history” is that long and covers allegedly five thousand years (historians have issues with that claim), it’s a squeeze to fit it all in. One solution is to borrow the scroll format, like Along the River during the Qingming Festival. I felt I already was pushing the format of my file by including illustrations for a non-Art tenure case, so I let that go for now.

Squirrel to the rescue! He can unroll the timeline like a garden hose to its fullest extent for display purposes, and can reel it back in anytime to tidy it away. And while we’re at it, I might as well point out that any East Asian historian worth their salt at a SLAC (Small Liberal Arts College), ends up covering Japan and Korea as well. It does help to have a little hippo on hand to model the correct reaction, of course! This ended up being a full page in my file, because… East Asian history is really long, you know? And just to be clear, I highlighted my area of scholarly expertise in purple, although I will happily cover it all “from Yao to Mao” and beyond.

The top panel has become a very regular feature at the start of any premodern Chinese history class to orient us for the session that day, and I use little coloured pointers to indicate where exactly we are. Reusable, and fun: what more do we want out of tenure file products?

Three panel comic illustrating the long timelines of China, Korea and Japan.
I imagine many students feel like William the Hippo when they first realize how much history we’ll cover in the average course.

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