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CZ:Proposals/Should history articles be named with general terms first?

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The issue

Elaborate the issue here. It is an issue (it takes the form of a question), not a proposal, properly speaking.


  • I think most people would type in History of France, so that should be the style. Of course they could also go to France first, and there would be the required link. Ro Thorpe 14:24, 9 February 2008 (CST) - And so it is. As for 'French history', I think most people would not choose it, a bit informal. Ro Thorpe 14:27, 9 February 2008 (CST)
  • Questions: are we limiting this discussion to places, like History of France, or does it also extend to things, like History of the kilt? If yes, why? Why should we limit this to the history workgroup? Why not make one rule for the whole of Citizendium? Would people actually search for Kilt, history or History of the kilt? And why should we limit ourselves to the old-fashioned way of keeping tab of books in a library, where people search for books in little drawers of cards by the first word according to the Dewey Decimal system? Isn't this an internet site? Don't we have redirects? --Christian Liem 20:42, 9 February 2008 (CST)
Well, if I wanted a history of the kilt, I'd probably just type in 'kilt' & be happy if there were immediately visible a link to 'history of the kilt', or, for that matter 'kilt, history'. Ro Thorpe 11:55, 10 February 2008 (CST)
I agree in the sense that many things have a "History Of" intinsically built into them, so to speak. Or they should. Baseball, for instance, ought to have a historical development section. I know (and Ro will agree, since he worked on it also) that Tennis has a long historical section. So I don't think we want separate articles like History of baseball, or Baseball, the history of, etc. etc. The word "history" ought to be confined, in my opinion, to *real* history, such as History of France, or France, history of, or France, the history of. Hayford Peirce 11:26, 11 February 2008 (CST)

First, I don't think it's a given that someone would type in "History of France" or "History of the kilt". I know I would probably start with either "France" or "Kilt" first, and the "France history" or "Kilt history". And on CZ, if you find France or Kilt you can probably navigate through that article, find the history section, and if there is an article that expands on this history it should be linked from there. However, I also don't think we should be naming articles simply by what keyword search people will use. Redirects solve this problem. I personally support the "France, history" style for organizational purposes within the workgroup.

To Hayford's point, everything has a *real* history. Just certain histories aren't covered by the history workgroup. :) I think if a topic is big enough, such as baseball or tennis, those histories might merit their own article to avoid overwhelming the main article. That should probably be the call of the workgroup editors. --Todd Coles 11:48, 11 February 2008 (CST)

Yes, I think that at some point someone has already suggested that the tennis article have its history section broken off in one way or another. But, unfortunately, out of the 10 or 15 supposed Sports Editors, none of them seem to be active at all and there's certainly never been any feedback from any of them about anything. Hayford Peirce 11:53, 11 February 2008 (CST)

I'd say the title of the article that appears in the article itself should be History of France but the article should appear in alphabetized lists as France, history. The checklist already has an option to do this that was put in for listing people by last name, right? Warren Schudy 20:18, 11 February 2008 (CST)

Personally, I like "France, history" as a general style. I think there is a virtue in having a distinctive style for some things, as it helps to build a distinctive identity. Having a formal title style also seems to raise the interesting possibility that they could be coupled with evocative subtitles. I could imagine sometime a cluster of articles "France, history: Cro Magnon man to Charlemagne" etc. Gareth Leng 09:40, 12 February 2008 (CST)

Yes, I definitely agree with Gareth. Hayford Peirce 10:33, 12 February 2008 (CST)

I already had brought this up, but I don't think it's being considered: we have to take into account (especially with some of the core articles and the articles that directly relate to them) how they are indexed from the outside world, and so far no one has done any analysis regarding this. --Robert W King 10:40, 12 February 2008 (CST)

I've explained and defended my view at some length in this History Workgroup discussion. In short, I have always thought that linkability, readability, and searchability all argue in favor of the traditional Wikipedia naming convention, which does not use commas in this way. But in any event, a decision needs to be made, and then we're going to have to go back over a lot of articles and rewrite the titles--either a bunch of Richard Jensen's, or even more from other workgroups. This isn't just a history workgroup matter. Another problem is that the proposal itself is vague and I have my doubts that it can be elaborated very coherently. I think we should just title articles using descriptive names, titles, and phrases as they appear in ordinary English sentences. --Larry Sanger 10:58, 12 February 2008 (CST)

I prefer the naming convention A, B. However, the natural language that most people use when they use search engines and how articles are indexed should and must trump this preference for obvious practical reasons. Stephen Ewen 11:10, 12 February 2008 (CST)
For what it's worth, if you google "history of france" or "france history", there is only 1 article difference in the first page returns. --Todd Coles 09:07, 13 February 2008 (CST)
Todd, this is simply false; the results between history of france and france, history, are dramatically different. Stephen Ewen 13:09, 15 February 2008 (CST)

Are CZ articles ever alphabetized by the title, or does CZ always use the abc field of the checklist when alphabetizing? If the abc field is always used, we can have our cake and eat it too, naming the article "History of France" but alphabetizing it as "France, history". Warren Schudy 18:24, 12 February 2008 (CST)

In theory, the abc section of the metadata template allows articles to be properly alphabetized in categories. Thus, the article History of France would have "abc = France, history of" in the metadata template, and thus will be alphabetized under "F" in the article list in. In theory. I have no idea if the practice works this way. Anthony Argyriou 17:23, 13 February 2008 (CST)

Keep in mind that it typing in History of France gets redirected to France, history. People will find the article they are looking for, so that shouldn't be an issue. What is an issue is whether its better to have it as keyword first, then the rest. Denis Cavanagh 06:49, 13 February 2008 (CST)

But what we have to know is which gets more traffic--"History of France" (the redirect) or "France history"? (the article home) We should follow the most "popular" naming schemes (by popular I mean how they are indexed by the search giants). The obvious side effect of this will be (hopefully) increased traffic to Citizendium; the downside is that we may have to forgo certain conventions. --Robert W King 10:01, 13 February 2008 (CST)
Could someone volunteer to be the driver for this proposal? Denis Cavanagh 07:27, 14 February 2008 (CST)
The inverted format is archaic. Libraries used it in the card catalog era because it was the most practical way of physically navigating related topics in a large catalog to avoid continual moving back and forth across the room. Users complained continually, and subject headings son became a mystery only the librarians could handle, and only by looking it up every time in their own reference books. Gradually LC changed in the recognition that even in a card catalog, it helped to use the term people would normally use--the very concept of subject headings. Now we have multiple way of co-locating articles, and the title people should see on top is the words readers would ordinarily used. what would anyone here say or write: I am a student (or professor) of French history or I am a prostudy of history, French ? DavidGoodman 09:19, 14 February 2008 (CST)
Getting back to the original example, we have to be careful with parts of speech. Is 'French History' a history of France or a history of French. Nitpicking maybe, but if this sort of amiguity creeps in someone somewhere is bound to moan about it. Christopher Evans
Oh, certainly, if we're not using the comma formation, we should use History of France, not French History. Anthony Argyriou 14:23, 14 February 2008 (CST)
There is no ambigiuity. The word 'French' in the form 'French History', is an adjective meaning belonging to France, where as the form in 'History of French' it is as a noun referring to the people or language named French. When people search they will either go for 'History of France' OR 'French History' they will not delimit the search with commas neither will they reverse the normal order speech. It reminds me of my army days when I had boots, leather, black and shoes, sports, for the use in. It's just ugly. On this one I agree with Larry's comments above. Derek Harkness 22:44, 15 February 2008 (CST)

This is about more than just history

While the proposal discusses "History of" articles, the principle is applicable to nearly any subtopic. Expanding on the subject of France, eventually, we will need articles on Geography of France, Politics of France, Kings of France, etc. As far as I can see, the only thing this chages is the scope of changes needed - if we adopt Richard Jensen's proposal, there will be a lot of renaming required outside the History Workgroup, while if we reject it, there will be a lot of articles in History to rename.

Something else to consider: There will be sub-sub-divisions. We already have Pittsburgh, History to 1800 and Pittsburgh, History since 1800. French history will probably require many more subdivisions than that. Do we want France, History, 1337 to 1453, or History of France, 1337 to 1453, or some other title.

Lastly, to repeat a point I made above: In theory, the abc section of the metadata template allows articles to be properly alphabetized in categories. Thus, the article History of France would have "abc = France, history of" in the metadata template, and thus will be alphabetized under "F" in the article list in. In theory. I have no idea if the practice works this way. Anthony Argyriou 14:23, 14 February 2008 (CST)

They should probably read History of Pittsburg to 1800 and History of Pittsburg since 1800 and History of France from 1337 to 1453 --Robert W King 14:29, 14 February 2008 (CST)
A central problem is that historians (and history editors and publishers) have in recent years strongly rejected "History of XYZ" titles. Only amateurs ignorant of the historiography use "History of XYZ" these days. These "History of XYZ" titles are not only unfashionable but they assume there is a fixed/factual/memorizable history of XYZ, which is a common misconception among non-historians. Historians strongly reject that way of thinking. One commentator above says everything has a *real* history oh no say the historians, that is not how scholars handle the past. They instead emphasize multiple approaches and contested historiography (which is how we handle topics like Napoleon or Hitler in CZ--compare the very old-fashioned approach in Wikipedia which is written by amateurs who rarely refer to the scholarship). CZ's History workgroup has therefore adopted the policy which conforms with the best practices in our field. It is a much deeper question than facilitating searches. As for searchers, we do have redirects from "History of France" and "French History" but few users, I suspect, will be interested in all of French history. They want France in 1793 or rural life in France or a hundred other cuts regarding France, most of which are best served by "France, history." Richard Jensen 12:35, 15 February 2008 (CST)
It's not at all clear from your argument that the approach used to write the article would have that great a bearing on the title of the article. An article on as large a topic as the overall history of France cannot hope but to be a very lightly-skimmed overview. While it may include some discussion of the contested historiography, and should include social and economic history as well as the traditional kings-dates-and-battles history, as well as copious links to sub-articles about the more specific topics within that subject, following the more modern approach to writing does not seem to dictate a title like France, history. Following the system you propose seems to lead to the parody of the way military quartermasters describe things - we could end up with France, history, social, peasantry, 1400s, when Peasantry of France in the 1400s would do. Anthony Argyriou 14:38, 15 February 2008 (CST)
Absolutely. The disciplinary practices should be followed.
This discussion is "mostly" ignoring the benefits of the technology. The wiki technology, through rigorous linking, can have multiple formats. It doesn't matter if a user is searching for the "History of France" or "France, history," by linking (and redirecting) properly the user should get to the information they want. In the process, users will become educated about how historians organize and arrange their field of study. There is actually a two-fold educational purpose here: (1) to get to the data (facts & interpretation) and (2) to gain and understanding of the discourse (the practices and methods of history). These cannot be divorced and still be history. Otherwise, users would be learning a lot of data about the past, but they are not learning history. Furthermore, every workgroup can and should follow their own disciplinary practices (although we should try to disabuse the psychologists of APA). Likewise, as users research topics they also come to understand how these disciplines organize and make sense of their fields. --Russell D. Jones 14:27, 15 February 2008 (CST)
what is CZ target audience: college students taking college courses, in my opinion. Unlike a high school course, in a college course you learn on day 1 that this is not about memorizing names-dates-events (that is Wikipedia's forte). It's about concepts. It's not the "History of France" and few collegians will want to read a "history of France." CZ covers the social history/ economic/ political/ religious/ military/ cultural history of a certain era in French history. See the Annales School for a summary. (I spent most of this week with history teachers looking at the US 1914-1940 from social, economic, business, military, diplomatic, cultural and political perspectives. Each perspectiuve was VERY different from the others.) Therefore the history of France CZ article is a shell holding together many different strands. Our emphasis is on what historians actually do and teach--hence we have lots of bibliography and lots of references to recent scholarly articles. (look at Louis XIV for a recent article) We sharply differentiate ourselves from Wikipedia because we are much more advanced and, I hope, sophisticated, and a student can learn what's going on on what books and articles are cutting edge. The college student appreciates there are many different approaches--they don't actually contradict each other (that is rare). So my argument is that a field with well-developed scholarship (ie history) should provide what the college student in a serious class actually needs. Wikipedia meanwhile with its long meaningless lists will be of help in spelling names and getting the right date.Richard Jensen 15:10, 15 February 2008 (CST)

My previous post begs the question: what are the disciplinary practices? Well, for history, naming conventions are inconsistent. My own fields are called “the history of technology” (not “Technology, History”) or the “history of science” (not “Science, History”). But other fields are called “women’s history” (sometimes “history of women”) or “latino history” or “legal history.” It’s “World History” not “the history of the world” or "World, History." Each field is idiosyncratic, and no universal rule applies to naming conventions. So, we should defer to the experts on this matter (this is CZ after all). If we are working on an article in the history of technology, we should defer to the historians of technology for naming conventions. Likewise if the matter here is whether the article should be called “History of France” or “France, History” or “French History,” I say we let the French historians decide the matter. They know the naming conventions of their field. BUT, we will not come up with a universal rule regarding this matter because the discipline itself has not decided the matter. Jones --Russell D. Jones 15:41, 15 February 2008 (CST)

Again, I'd like to suggest that the natural language people use with search engines trumps all other concerns here. What good is a "perfectly" named article if people don't use that name when they search, leading to CZ articles being perpetually placed low in search engine rankings? Stephen Ewen 16:02, 15 February 2008 (CST)
One way to have our cake and eat it too may be to avoid redirects. So, for example, "History of France" would lead to a page - an page indexable by search engines - that says "See France, history of". Stephen Ewen 16:06, 15 February 2008 (CST)
Regarding this particular point, I believe that Google manages to index Wikipedia's redirects perfectly well. Notice that the first result in Google for "Gentilic" is the Wikipedia article on "Demonym" - on Wikipedia, gentilic is a redirect to demonym. Searching Google for "Myanmar" returns a link to , which redirects just fine to "Burma". Anthony Argyriou 16:24, 15 February 2008 (CST)
Ah, Stephen, there is a CZ instrumental concern, no? But should we accept Darwin's theory as "survival of the fittest" just because that is "the natural language that people use with search engines" even though it is wrong? This is the perpetual problem of educators. We need to reach the audience in order to educate them about the proper ways to be thinking about things. But, again, no universal rule will solve this problem for history. I like your next proposal because it uses the technology. Such pages would be easy to edit. HEY! Aren't those things called "disambiguation pages" over on WP? --Jones Russell D. Jones 16:26, 15 February 2008 (CST)
some people think, falsely that there is "the natural language people use with search engines". Says who? (Google tells us: Your search - "the natural language people use with search engines" - did not match any documents.) Where can we find this hypothetical ur-language? One place is to ask the folks who show teachers, libnrarians and students how to do searches. I spent a couple days in North Dakota this week doing exactly that with 25 history teachers. On the topic at hand, it is very unlikely a college student wants to know about "THE history of France." That is very unlikely to be an assignment. (How do I know?: I read college syllabi online and see what professors demand their students to know: just search on "syllabi French history" to get a few dozen syllabi that I have looked at.) Richard Jensen 17:29, 15 February 2008 (CST)

There is of course the layman who loves a good story; ie, the person who simply likes knowing the story of France, in its prehistory, right up to the Gallish tribes, the Roman Empire, Charlemagne, the Kings of France, Its culture, arts and music, its wars, traditions and politics. General articles have their place too, on the great scale of things (And this isn't meant to key into the discussion occuring above, just thinking aloud :-) Denis Cavanagh 17:09, 16 February 2008 (CST)

Google trends Stephen Ewen 18:48, 16 February 2008 (CST)