The History Shop – Part Four – The Full Bottle

When I was a student we were always being told that it was necessary to be ” a full bottle “. This was a buzz phrase used by Australian academics in much the same way that they used ” at this point in time ” instead of saying ” now “. From what I could see a number of them had a close working relationship with full bottles…

Be that as it may, I have since come to regard historians in general in a similar light – though I would not use the term ” bottle “. I think ” vessel ” would be more appropriate, and has a nicer sound – more dignified. You could have ” full vessels “, ” empty vessels “, ” sounding vessels ” etc. I’d further characterise them as storage vessels, or water tanks – filling from the top and emptying from the bottom, with appropriate lids and valves at either end. But rather than water, they contain knowledge. Or shit.

The trick of being a successful academic, historian, or academic historian*, would be in balancing the input of shit with the output of shit. Papers in, papers out – lectures in, lectures out. It would not do to tell more than you know because eventually you would have no more shit to sell. Likewise, if you never let any shit out when it flows in, you would soon be overflowing with it. Many academics are in this situation but there are only a few places left in political life to absorb them. And it’s no good sending them off to other countries – they’d send theirs to us in revenge.

* Becoming a historic academic means outliving the rest of the faculty. Wear an armoured back-plate.



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