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Sources, Sources, Sources!

Posted December 28th, 2011 at 04:21 AM by DavidM

History is all about using the right sources. I found this out whilst I was researching the number of awards of the kurhessian Wilhelmsorden

Click the image to open in full size.

as show in the graphic above. The present day literature (Sauer, W.: Die Orden und Ehrenzeichen des Kurfürstentums Hessen-Kassel Hamburg n/y p. 17) gives a whole different view on the number of awards then my own research. The reason for this is not to difficult to find: it is all about sources! Where Sauer solely used the lists of recipients published in the Staatshandbücher (Court and State handbook) I started out with using the original Protokollen der Ordenskommission. The differences can be explained as follows:

16.02.1853 allerhöchstes Rescript, wonach bei einer Ordensverleihung an einen Ausländer dieser erst dann im Beitrag
zum Hof- und Staatshandbuch aufgenommen werden soll, wann das National eingegangen ist

One of the foreigners who was decorated with the Commanders Cross I Class of the order did not hand his National in untill 2 years after the award. So in the year in which he was awarded his decoration, he did not appear in the Staatshandbuch, but he did appear in the Protokollen. As a result of this Sauer did not list him at all.

Furthermore, when a recipient died the same year he was awarded a decoration, he would not appear in the Staatshandbücher either. This caused a further 3-4 decorated men not listed by Sauer, but listed by me, because I use other sources.

So all in all I personally believe in order to get the facts right, a historian should first of all get the right data from the right sources
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