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31 July 2010 @ 12:50 pm
Tracing your Home's History  
I'm not sure how I came to possess Tracing your Home's History by Anthony Adolph. It claims to be excerpted for The Times so I suspect it fell out of a relative's paper and was passed on to me because of my interest in genealogy. It's basically, a few grammatical infelicities aside, a perfectly respectable run-down of useful sources for tracing your home's history. However I had high hopes that it would be bonkers and laughably inaccurate after I read the following two sentences in the introduction:

In shows such as Living TV's Most Haunted series, my friend the psychic Derek Acorah* visits buildings all over Britain and uses his paranormal skills to communicate with the spirits of dead inhabitants.

From Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey to A. A. Milne's The House at Pooh Corner, many successful books and films are based around homes and the events that unfold within them.

Sadly the rest of the book was far more prosaic.

*Yes that's the one who got tricked into being possessed by a fictional character and yes, the Introduction was written (or at least published) after that happened.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/13516.html.
parrot_knight: Sheldonianparrot_knight on July 31st, 2010 12:44 pm (UTC)
I suspect that Anthony Adolph is someone whose core approach is non-populist and whose character is not naturally oriented towards pitching projects to whatever audience painfully managing to do so, just.
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on July 31st, 2010 12:50 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure, has also written a Collins guide to family history which suggests, at the very least, a desire to publish these more popularist works.

I also would expect someone with a core academic focus to avoid making statements that books focus on some particular thing or other without checking that first. I mean there are many famous books that focus on homes, but the House at Pooh Corner definitely isn't one of them nor, really, is Northanger Abbey.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on July 31st, 2010 12:54 pm (UTC)
I know Adolph's work a little, and he needs to publish these popular works to survive. As for academic history, it's full of mistakes about things outside the writer's 'own period' anyway... and Adolph is a good historian, in my limited experience of his work (I was one of his editors, tangentially) though not one whose style and interests lead him to fit easily into modern British academe, hence his freelance existence.
louisedennislouisedennis on July 31st, 2010 01:04 pm (UTC)
I think we may have to agree to differ. I don't really find "it's not my period" to be much of an excuse for making incorrect assertions about famous works of Children's literature.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on July 31st, 2010 01:15 pm (UTC)
No, it's not an excuse at all. I would charge some of my colleagues with seeing it as a sign of professionalism. I don't agree with it, I just see where he is coming from.
joereavesjoereaves on July 31st, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC)
If you're making the kind of mistake that can be fixed in thirty seconds on google it doesn't exactly breed confidence in your work. Especially when writing about a topic which is all about research.

Doesn't say much for whoever edited that introduction either.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on July 31st, 2010 08:51 pm (UTC)
If anyone did edit it for content - it's a stage which is often omitted these days.
louisedennislouisedennis on August 1st, 2010 09:06 am (UTC)
That was my feeling. I understand you can't guarantee to be right about everything, but if you are going to pick the names of two well-known books out of thin air (which seems to have been the case here), a quick check that they are about what you think they are about doesn't go amiss. As a non-historian, that sort of mistake is the sort of thing that will make me doubt the quality of the rest of the work. Though, as I say, as far as I could tell the body of the book was fine.
wellinghallwellinghall on July 31st, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
I think we may have to agree to differ.

You'll clearly never fit in on the internet! ;-)
louisedennislouisedennis on August 1st, 2010 09:13 am (UTC)
Oh I'm quite capable of conducting pointless and vitriolic arguments on the internet, but my interest in arguing the ethics of historical writing with parrot_knight are quite low, if only because I suspect I'd lose :)