Re: Historians, etc.
- Thank you, Dr. Schiller....I think we are basically on the same page!
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Laurence D. Schiller"
> Greetings Anne:is
> At 11:30 PM +0000 1/1/05, email@example.com wrote:
> >Thank you Dr. Schiller. You are the first professional historian I
> >have encountered who is willing to concede that there are
> >competent "amatuers"!
> I think you will find there are plenty of others - although there
> also plenty of snobbery, etc. in the field. On the other hand, Ihave
> met quite a few amateurs who dismiss professional historiansbecause
> our work doesn't come up to the standards of the mythology theywant
> to believe about the ACW. I'm sure you know what I mean.and 'heritage
> > 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.
> Oh, no question of that. That is why historical interpretation is
> always changing. I get highly amused at the re-enactors
> types' I know who protest about 'PC' and how 'leftist' historiansare
> trying to 'change' history like there was some sort of immutableis
> 'historical truth'. Yes, nobody is completely objective and error
> always possible, but a good historian is cognizant of that. I neveranyone
> suggested history was like science.
> >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
> >really know how the composer heard his music? The score mayindicate
> >many dynamics...but how loud is that Forte? I have had the pleasurenot
> >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
> >an easy task, but when it happens? It's quite a thrill.Historians
> I don't want to bore the board with a discussion of music. I also
> have done some conducting and understand your point - but my point,
> not well stated I guess, is that the analogy is incorrect.
> are not doing the same thing as conductors. We are not trying toand
> interpret the intentions of some composer, but trying to ascertain
> the 'what, why, who, where, and so on'. Quite a different task.
> Apples and oranges as they say.
> >Let me ask you this; I am writing a book about local ACW soldiers
> >veterans. Part of my work has been to identify as many soldiers asor
> >possible that were born in, lived in for extended amounts of time,
> >died in this county. I knew going in it would not be possible tofind
> >each and every one; particularly those who moved west as children.I
> >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
> >never included a name until I was able to validate the informationin
> >more than two sources. That was my method. At some point, don't youprocess
> >have to give me the benefit of the doubt that I followed this
> >for each and every name on the list?source -
> Yes and no. Obviously you aren't going to cite each specific
> however, generally you create a bibliography with the sources yourecords,
> used - For example, pension records, Muster rolls, cemetery
> etc. If you used specific collections of papers, you would citearea,
> those. Newspapers can also be listed. You don't have to cite each
> obit with page number. Since you are working in a very specific
> I would imagine that there are records that you have usedextensively
> for many of the soldiers - local newspapers, archives, and soforth.
> This would give someone a handle on where you got your informationthe
> without having 43 pages of endnotes. Like Harry, my trust in what I
> read comes from the reliability of what is written and an idea of
> sources you used. For a local type genealogical publication, youas
> don't need more than this.
> > 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
> >they saw them, and their post-war experiences.for
> Understood, but if you want your work to stand, you need to provide
> some data. Just as an example, I came across a paper done in 1963
> the Evanston Review, a weekly newspaper here in the Chicago area,didn't
> which talked all about contributions of local soldiers in the CW.
> Unfortunately, even a cursory reading showed me it had numerous
> errors and since there was no indication of sources, I found I
> trust anything in the article unless I knew it to be true from myown
> work (I work on the 8th Illinois Cav amongst other cavalry units).If
> I just 'trusted' this guy, I would have quite a bit of incorrectof
> information which I might incorporate into something I wrote - and
> course I would have cited this guy. All of us can cite exampleswhere
> one source ends up being the source for some myth which getsrepeated
> (a la Buford's repeaters) until it is 'popularly accepted'. I'm notyou
> at all suggesting that your work is shoddy - it sounds as though
> are being quite thorough, but it is the sort of thing someone doingto
> other research might like to use and you owe them the sources, at
> least in a general way.
> > 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
> >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 ofa
> It's not a question of 'convincing' someone of anything. Remember,
> the first task of the historian is to collect data - which is what
> you are doing.
> > Would you find no value then in my work?
> Of course I would - as per what I said above. In my never ending
> research on my cavalry book, I have used stuff just as you are
> collecting - but it is more difficult for me to use if I can't get
> handle on how you have collected it. Which brings me to anotherpoint
> - it is always good to have a short introduction which explainsyour
> methodology - that also covers the type of sources you used andgives
> the reader confidence in your work.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
> >with what you have and often that is not an ideal situation. Idon't
> >believe, however, that it prevents you from presenting a "provable"control
> >case within the guidelines of the justice system. You can not
> >the "human factor"....witnesses will recant, lawyers will muddyany
> >issues, technical mistakes will be made, and jurors will acquit
> >guilty people. Do we therefore give up on the system?
> I'm not sure I follow your point here. History is not 'truth' in
> sense. We always find new things that may change how we interpret.best
> Nor is history a 'case' to be proved. We simply take the data as
> we can and create an interpretation. There are even competing validand
> interpretations depending on what variables you want to stress
> (economic, political, etc.) You can challenge any interpretation
> I may change my mind (or not =-)), but you'd better be able to showvalid.
> the flaws in my argument. The problem is always that any
> interpretation must be backed by solid data and sound argument. So,
> as I said in my first post, not all interpretations are equally
> Laurie Schiller
> >Thanks for an interesting discussion.
> >With all due respect,
> >Anne (BS, MLIS....no PhD on my wall!!!):^)
> Dr. Laurence Dana Schiller Civil War First Person
> Maitre d'Armes William Bradshaw, Co.F 2nd WI
> Head Fencing Coach George Hammitt, Co. H 104thIll
> Department of History
> Northwestern University
> Commissioner, Midwest Fencing Conference
> Midwest VP, US Fencing Coaches' Association
> Vice-Chair USFA Illinois Division
> 847-491-4654 (Athletics)
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