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Marshall Poe, November 2007
Marshall Tillbrook Poe (born December 29, 1961) is an Americanmarker writer and historian. He is a member of the Department of History at the University of Iowamarker, and a visiting professor at Eastern Michigan Universitymarker for the 2007-8 academic year.

Poe is the author or editor of a number of books on early modern Russia, and the founder and editor ofMemoryArchive, a universal wiki-type archive of contemporary memoirs he began with his students at American Universitymarker in 2005. There he has contributed numerous personal accounts of his own, from playing basketball with Barack Obama, to stumbling onto a Dennis Rader (the infamous BTK killer) crime scene. He has also become known for his commentary on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.

Education and academic career

Poe graduated from Wichita High School Southeast in 1980. He earned a B.A. at Grinnell College in 1984 and his Ph.D. in history at the University of California, Berkeleymarker in 1992.

He taught at Harvard Universitymarker until 1998, and again from 2000 to 2002, during which time he was appointed Allston Burr Senior Tutor at Harvard's Lowell Housemarker. He has held fellowships at the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard; the Institute for Advanced Studymarker in Princeton, New Jersey; and the Harriman Institute for Russian Studies at Columbia University.

At the Institute for Advanced Studymarker, Poe played guitar in a rock and roll band called "Do Not Erase," comprised entirely of fellows at the Institute. The name of the band is a phrase known at the institute because it is what mathematicians and others will write under their long theorems and proofs on chalk boards, especially if their equations have discovered something new.


Poe is the co-founder and a former editor of the academic journal Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History. In 2006, he worked for the The Atlantic Monthly, writing on issues such as divorce among born-again Christians, and the history of Wikipedia.

In his 2002 essay "Note to Self: Print Monograph Dead; Invent New Publishing Model," published in the Journal of Electronic Publishing, Poe questioned the viability of the old academic publishing model, arguing in favor of self-publishing and print on demand. He explained how he did this with one of the two volumes of his prosopographical study of the Russian elite in the early modern period. "Shortly after I sent the book for review", he writes, "a very worried journal editor contacted me. He was upset that I hadn't included a copyright page on the e-book I sent him. Without a copyright page, he explained, any reader could copy my book, send it all over the world, or use it in the classroom — all without my permission. That, I responded, was the point. (I'm not sure he got it.)" The two volumes of this work were published by the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters in 2004.

Poe's own work has brought back from obscurity the writings of the16th-century Austrian diplomat Sigismund von Herberstein, who was one of the first European ethnographers of Russia.


Poe has become known for his commentary on Wikipedia following the publication of his article "The Hive" in The Atlantic Monthly in 2006. Poe's position on Wikipedia is that it's not an encyclopedia, but a repository of common knowledge. He told Andrew Keen: "It’s more like a dictionary. It has the definition, a kind of rough description, of the way we talk about everything. It’s not expert knowledge, it’s common knowledge."

Selected bibliography

  • "Russian despotism" : the origins and dissemination of an early modern commonplace. Thesis (Ph. D. in History). University of California, Berkeleymarker, 1993.
  • Foreign descriptions of Muscovy: an analytic bibliography of primary and secondary sources. Columbus, Ohiomarker: Slavica, 1995
  • A people born to slavery: Russia in early modern European ethnography, 1476-1748. Ithaca, NYmarker: Cornell University Press, 2000
  • (Ed.) The military and society in Russia: 1450-1917, edited by Eric Lohr and Marshall Poe. Leidenmarker; Boston, MAmarker: Brill, 2002.
  • (Ed.) The resistance debate in Russian and Soviet history, edited by Michael David-Fox, Peter Holquist, Marshall Poe. Bloomington, Ind.: Slavica Publishers, 2003
  • (Ed.) Early exploration of Russia, edited by Marshall Poe. New York: Routledge, 2003.
  • (Ed.) Modernizing Muscovy: reform and social change in seventeenth-century Russia, edited by Jarmo Kotilaine and Marshall Poe. New Yorkmarker : RoutledgeCurzon, 2004
  • The Russian elite in the seventeenth century. Vol. 1, The consular and ceremonial ranks of the Russian "Sovereigns court" 1613-1713. (Suomalaisen tiedeakatemian toimituksia. Sarja Humaniora, 322, ISSN 1239-6982). Helsinkimarker: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2004
  • The Russian elite in the seventeenth century. Vol. 2, A quantitative analysis of the "Duma ranks" 1613-1713. (Suomalaisen tiedeakatemian toimituksia. Sarja Humaniora, 323) Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2004. Electronic edition (PDF) available from Harvard Universitymarker here ( alternative link, at Michigan State Universitymarker library)


  1. Marshall T. Poe, University of Iowa Department of History, retrieved January 16, 2008.
  2. Poe's lecture series, Eastern Michigan University, Fall 2007.
  3. Recent articles by Marshall Poe, The Atlantic Monthly. Also see "Common Knowledge", The Atlantic Monthly, August 1, 2006; and "The Hive", The Atlantic Monthly, September 2006.
  4. "Print Monograph Dead; Invent New Publishing Model", The Journal of Electronic Publishing, University of Michigan Press, December 2001, Volume 7, Issue 2, retrieved July 13, 2008.
  5. "The Hive", The Atlantic Monthly, September 2006.
  6. Keen, Andrew. "Everyone knows everything", interview with Marshall Poe, AfterTV, August 24, 2006, retrieved January 16, 2008.

External links

  • Memory Archive, an online historical preservation project started by Poe.
  • New Books in History, a podcast hosted by Poe featuring historians with newly issued books.
  • Mechanical Icon, a collection of "video essays" on historical photographs produced by Poe.

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