Being a historian on the 'net.

OpanaPointer

Ad Honoris
Dec 2010
11,643
Near St. Louis.
I sometimes get the impression there is confusion about how a historian does history on the Internet and how we can judge their work. The following is my concept regarding being a historian on the Internet and will not address content but rather how a person can gain credibility in an area where there are no tests, no oral exams, no peer reviewed papers, no book sales, no TV spots.

1. To be a good historian, a credible historian, first and foremost you must admit when you've made a mistake. You don't have to rend your clothes and put ashes in your hair, just say, "I made a mistake. The correct information is..." If you don't do this your credibility will remain at zero.

2. Interact with others. Give them a chance to speak their piece, then reply without rancor or vitriol. Make your case to the best of your ability and remember that a resolution to differences may not happen.

3. A "urinating contest" is pointless, there are no prizes awarded here for being meaner than the other person. Avoid being emotional and don't give in to the temptation to fling zingers at people. Chat rooms and Facebook are the place for things like that.

4. Support your claims. Tell people where you got your information. Remember that the data you present is judged by the source. "I heard it on the History Channel" is at one end of the scale and "Gerhard Weinberg states on page ..." is on the other end. If you refuse to provide sources you not only waste people's time reading something that isn't actually information, you also show that you haven't done the research to make your claim with any strength.

5. Exchange ideas and be ready to change your position if strong evidence shows that your current stance is not valid or is weaker than the information warrants. If you can't do that history may not be your area.

6. Your home country/state/town/school is probably your favorite, but keep in mind that no country/etc. is ever always in the right. Be prepared to acknowledge the dark side of your national history. Trying to sweep it under the rug makes people suspect you're not being honest with them or yourself.

7. If you're going to make a claim that's contrary to the currently accepted state of information on a subject you should be very well prepared before you start. You should be ready to recheck your material. Be ready to present your sources, nobody should automatically accept that a speaker has correctly represented the facts, or that their sources are unimpeachable.

8. I'm sure I forgot some things, feel free to add and help us all be better Internet historians. :)
 

Lord Fairfax

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,446
Changing trains at Terrapin Station...
Excellent points Opana. :cool:

To expand on #6, there are quite a few posters on various websites that are convinced that their country's generals were the smartest, their tanks/aircraft/troops were the best and their own country's positions were ethically & morally unimpeachable.

I think a good historian needs to be objective, otherwise you come off as just a fan with an axe to grind
 
Nov 2015
1,016
Ayton
Excellent points Opana. :cool:

To expand on #6, there are quite a few posters on various websites that are convinced that their country's generals were the smartest, their tanks/aircraft/troops were the best and their own country's positions were ethically & morally unimpeachable.

I think a good historian needs to be objective, otherwise you come off as just a fan with an axe to grind
Sez you! Black Tom The Tyrant. Under Fairfax (and Cromwell) The Army shrugged off the sluggish Essex and the reticent Manchester and got down to business. How can someone not say that The New Model was excellent or that Monck, Blake and Dean weren't inspirational?
So. I can understand the criticism of some countries claiming to have the best Army, Navy Airforce. (Cromwell's airforce was somewhat lacking), but that is because they are wrong.:zany:
Please accept this in the manner intended and tell your Avatar that he could probably have handled Leslie better that Cromwell did. And tell your avatar's wife 'Shut it you Presbyterian harridan'.
 
Nov 2015
1,016
Ayton
Oi! Fairfax! (Sir) I've been looking at portraits of King Charles I, Wentworth, Fairfax etc. And I reckon they are all wearing the same suit of armour! Makes you wonder if Anthony Van Dyke (No relation to Offa) Had prepared canvases with the armour on it and just stuck the heads in? Thomas Wentworth commissioned loads of pictures and demanded a discount for quantity. He like to give them to friends and family. Imagine.... 'What did Uncle THomas send us for Christmas Ann?'. 'A portrait by some dyke in a van.' Chuck it here then, we should be able to boil a kettle once its burning'. (This was a piece of little known history wot I discovered myself.)