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Prof vs Amateur HIstorians

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  • Laurence D. Schiller
    ... Greetings Anne - I agree that, at times, the difference between professionals and amateurs is overworked - however, that said, one does undergo a specific
    Message 1 of 6 , Jan 1, 2005
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      At 6:54 PM +0000 1/1/05, civilwarwest@yahoogroups.com wrote:
      >(snip first part)



      >I think sometimes people get too caught up in this "professional
      >historian" versus "historian" or "Authority". The purpose of a
      >professional historian is vastly different than that of a local
      >historian or an "expert" in a certain aspect of the war, or
      >an "amatuer". And to me, all of them have something of great value
      >to add to my accumlated knowledge. That is why, IMHO, we are all
      >historians of a sort. I do not take all of the professional and
      >academic credentials too seriously; after all....like us, they
      >weren't there and so what we read is their interpretation. None of us
      >have every heard Mozart perform, but we have heard many
      >interpretations of his music. If it is well done and accurate, there
      >is no way to know if that artists interpretation of the music is what
      >Mozart intended. I tend to view history in the same way.
      >
      >Anne
      >www.geocities.com/civilwarlady
      >
      >Happy New Year!!

      Greetings Anne - I agree that, at times, the difference between
      professionals and amateurs is overworked - however, that said, one
      does undergo a specific disciplinary training as a professional. I
      totally agree that many amateur's have developed excellent analytic
      skills and have much to contribute to the body of knowledge - I know
      many - but it is not a question of 'having been there' but of having
      developed the skills to evaluate primary and secondary material and
      understanding how to go about interpreting all of this. These are
      skills that you learn and have to think about how to use. All
      interpretations are not equal or valid - good historians learn how to
      collect and evaluate evidence and build valid interpretations based
      on the evidence. That is why citations are important because you need
      to be able to go and find what I based my interpretation on if you
      want to. A good interpretation/argument will deal with not only
      supporting evidence, but opposing evidence and will be internally
      sound and defendable. This is more than just reading a couple of
      books or web sites and deciding what you like best. Finally, I'm
      afraid I can't really agree with the musician analogy. Interpreting
      music has much to do with the feelings of the conductor and the
      performers - not actual research on what the composer wanted. He
      included that in the score he wrote. Historians, however, have to
      research all sorts of sources, many of which are very contradictory,
      and we have to have the skills to sort all of this out.

      Mind you, I have know excellent historians without degrees and some
      bad historians with degrees - but I think you underestimate what goes
      into all of this.

      Thanks for listening.

      Best,

      Laurie Schiller
      --
      Dr. Laurence Dana Schiller Civil War First Person Impressions
      Maitre d'Armes William Bradshaw, Co. F 2nd WI
      Head Fencing Coach George Hammitt, Co. H 104th Ill
      Department of History
      Northwestern University
      Commissioner, Midwest Fencing Conference
      Midwest VP, US Fencing Coaches' Association
      Vice-Chair USFA Illinois Division
      Lds307@...
      847-491-4654 (Athletics)
      847-467-5344 (History)
      FAX 847-467-1406
      Official Sports site: http://nusports.ocsn.com/
      Student web site: http://groups.northwestern.edu/fencing/
    • civilwarlady@yahoo.com
      ... us ... there ... what ... know ... having ... to ... need ... contradictory, ... goes ... Thank you Dr. Schiller. You are the first professional historian
      Message 2 of 6 , Jan 1, 2005
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        --- In civilwarwest@yahoogroups.com, "Laurence D. Schiller"
        <LDS307@n...> wrote:
        > At 6:54 PM +0000 1/1/05, civilwarwest@yahoogroups.com wrote:
        > >(snip first part)
        >
        >
        >
        > >I think sometimes people get too caught up in this "professional
        > >historian" versus "historian" or "Authority". The purpose of a
        > >professional historian is vastly different than that of a local
        > >historian or an "expert" in a certain aspect of the war, or
        > >an "amatuer". And to me, all of them have something of great value
        > >to add to my accumlated knowledge. That is why, IMHO, we are all
        > >historians of a sort. I do not take all of the professional and
        > >academic credentials too seriously; after all....like us, they
        > >weren't there and so what we read is their interpretation. None of
        us
        > >have every heard Mozart perform, but we have heard many
        > >interpretations of his music. If it is well done and accurate,
        there
        > >is no way to know if that artists interpretation of the music is
        what
        > >Mozart intended. I tend to view history in the same way.
        > >
        > >Anne
        > >www.geocities.com/civilwarlady
        > >
        > >Happy New Year!!
        >
        > Greetings Anne - I agree that, at times, the difference between
        > professionals and amateurs is overworked - however, that said, one
        > does undergo a specific disciplinary training as a professional. I
        > totally agree that many amateur's have developed excellent analytic
        > skills and have much to contribute to the body of knowledge - I
        know
        > many - but it is not a question of 'having been there' but of
        having
        > developed the skills to evaluate primary and secondary material and
        > understanding how to go about interpreting all of this. These are
        > skills that you learn and have to think about how to use. All
        > interpretations are not equal or valid - good historians learn how
        to
        > collect and evaluate evidence and build valid interpretations based
        > on the evidence. That is why citations are important because you
        need
        > to be able to go and find what I based my interpretation on if you
        > want to. A good interpretation/argument will deal with not only
        > supporting evidence, but opposing evidence and will be internally
        > sound and defendable. This is more than just reading a couple of
        > books or web sites and deciding what you like best. Finally, I'm
        > afraid I can't really agree with the musician analogy. Interpreting
        > music has much to do with the feelings of the conductor and the
        > performers - not actual research on what the composer wanted. He
        > included that in the score he wrote. Historians, however, have to
        > research all sorts of sources, many of which are very
        contradictory,
        > and we have to have the skills to sort all of this out.
        >
        > Mind you, I have know excellent historians without degrees and some
        > bad historians with degrees - but I think you underestimate what
        goes
        > into all of this.
        >
        > Thanks for listening.
        >
        > Best,
        >
        > Laurie Schiller
        > --
        > Dr. Laurence Dana Schiller


        Thank you Dr. Schiller. You are the first professional historian I
        have encountered who is willing to concede that there are
        competent "amatuers"! Believe me, I do not underestimate the work of
        a professional historian. I still believe, however, that historial
        evidence is not the equivalent of scientific evidence. It is still
        subject to interpretation and still susceptible to bias, and
        therefore no matter how exacting the research is, it is still the
        possibility of error, and I am ok with that.

        I beg to differ on the your interpretation of musical performance.
        It is the conductor and/or performer who must interpret what the
        composer wanted. Yes, there are clues in the score. But does anyone
        really know how the composer heard his music? The score may indicate
        many dynamics...but how loud is that Forte? I have had the pleasure
        of doing some conducting many years ago and I can tell you from my
        experience that ultimately, the conductor interprets the score and
        then his or her job becomes conveying that interpretation to the
        performers to get them to respond as you have interpreted. It is not
        an easy task, but when it happens? It's quite a thrill.

        Let me ask you this; I am writing a book about local ACW soldiers and
        veterans. Part of my work has been to identify as many soldiers as
        possible that were born in, lived in for extended amounts of time, or
        died in this county. I knew going in it would not be possible to find
        each and every one; particularly those who moved west as children.
        But I have 75 pages of names, units, where in the county they lived
        if it can be determined, when they died and where they are buried,
        etc. If I were required to cite every source I used to locate this
        information for every soldier on that list, the footnotes would be
        five times the length of the list. I used a variety of sources and I
        never included a name until I was able to validate the information in
        more than two sources. That was my method. At some point, don't you
        have to give me the benefit of the doubt that I followed this process
        for each and every name on the list? I should add that my purpose is
        not to achieve an academically acceptable end result. My purpose is
        to write a book about local soldiers, the events they experienced as
        they saw them, and their post-war experiences. If I were submitting
        this project as a thesis, the standard would be much higher than my
        desire to submit this to the general public and people with an
        interest in the history of this area; I strive for accuracy, I can
        not guarantee that every middle name, or date of death, or every
        Company is 100% correct. There are all sorts of problems inherent to
        the kinds of sources I had to use. But I want people to know, honor,
        and remember these men. I am not trying to convince anyone of
        anything. Would you find no value then in my work?

        I don't mean to get everybody lost in this subject!! My law
        enforcement experiences tells me that not every case is text book
        perfect with undeniable evidence. Many times, you are forced to work
        with what you have and often that is not an ideal situation. I don't
        believe, however, that it prevents you from presenting a "provable"
        case within the guidelines of the justice system. You can not control
        the "human factor"....witnesses will recant, lawyers will muddy
        issues, technical mistakes will be made, and jurors will acquit
        guilty people. Do we therefore give up on the system?

        Thanks for an interesting discussion.
        With all due respect,
        Anne (BS, MLIS....no PhD on my wall!!!):^)
      • LWhite64@aol.com
        Well, beyond training etc, I think one thing that gives Profesional Historians an advantage is their time to be able to do reserach, as well as being able to
        Message 3 of 6 , Jan 1, 2005
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          Well, beyond training etc, I think one thing that gives Profesional Historians an advantage is their time to be able to do reserach, as well as being able to access sources more easily than a layman.

          Lee
        • Jfepperson@aol.com
          In a message dated 1/1/2005 5:27:07 PM Eastern Standard Time, civilwarlady@yahoo.com writes: Thank you Dr. Schiller. You are the first professional historian I
          Message 4 of 6 , Jan 1, 2005
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            In a message dated 1/1/2005 5:27:07 PM Eastern Standard Time, civilwarlady@... writes:
            Thank you Dr. Schiller. You are the first professional historian I
            have encountered who is willing to concede that there are
            competent "amatuers"! 
            =====
            With all due respect, Anne, I am not sure this is true.  If memory serves
            (and I think I have recovered from last night enough to trust my memory ;-)
            you have participated in a discussion with another widely published
            professional historian who has acknowledged contributions by a
            number of amateurs.
             
            JFE
          • civilwarlady@yahoo.com
            Thank you Dr. Epperson. Perhaps I have...but perhaps they were not as convincing as Dr. Schiller? :^) Anne ... serves ... memory ;-)
            Message 5 of 6 , Jan 1, 2005
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              Thank you Dr. Epperson. Perhaps I have...but perhaps they were not as
              convincing as Dr. Schiller? :^)

              Anne


              --- In civilwarwest@yahoogroups.com, Jfepperson@a... wrote:
              > In a message dated 1/1/2005 5:27:07 PM Eastern Standard Time,
              > civilwarlady@y... writes:
              > Thank you Dr. Schiller. You are the first professional historian I
              > have encountered who is willing to concede that there are
              > competent "amatuers"!
              > =====
              > With all due respect, Anne, I am not sure this is true. If memory
              serves
              > (and I think I have recovered from last night enough to trust my
              memory ;-)
              > you have participated in a discussion with another widely published
              > professional historian who has acknowledged contributions by a
              > number of amateurs.
              >
              > JFE
            • DPowell334@AOL.COM
              In a message dated 1/1/2005 4:57:17 PM Central Standard Time, ... Amen. I work my poor public Libarians to death at the ILL desk, and they are very successful,
              Message 6 of 6 , Jan 2, 2005
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                In a message dated 1/1/2005 4:57:17 PM Central Standard Time, LWhite64@... writes:


                Well, beyond training etc, I think one thing that gives Profesional Historians an advantage is their time to be able to do reserach, as well as being able to access sources more easily than a layman.




                Amen.

                I work my poor public Libarians to death at the ILL desk, and they are very successful, but it is often costly to get materials loaned to a non-academic institution. I do a lot of traveling to various institutions, all of which has to fit around my day job.

                Dave Powell
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