Book being read: Ah, you have caught me between books! At the moment my thesis is taking up most of my time so reading, per se, takes a back seat. The only books you ‘read’ are for references, clarification of ideas and arguments. I am off to London today to do specifically that, I have no doubt that much of what I will be ‘reading’ will be the work of my supervisor, H. van Wees, and similar military historians.
When you study history earlier than the early modern period (for arguments sake let’s say before 1650) you can quite often become very annoyed by the tiny amounts of information you are given about individuals. Pick up any good book on an individual (I am loathed to say a biography) and more often than not you will see in the introduction a phrase along the lines of “we actually know very little about XXXXX’s life/upbringing/family/etc” or perhaps something along the lines of “it is hard to distinguish fact from fiction/myth/legend/propaganda/rhetoric”.
Indeed, there are times you read a primary source which gives you one measly line about an individual who (from the longevity of their reputation) you are pretty sure was an important guy/gal. This is especially true if you read the Medieval Irish Annals who, if they were written in the modern period would most likely have never mentioned Winston Churchill only to write on the day of his death “Churchill died”. Needless to say this is bloody irritating.
It may be the same sort of arrogance that exists today; there is so much written down what is the chance that it will all be lost? Well it has happened on many occasions, major libraries were destroyed and the knowledge/history was lost. But, I am one for tradition and annoying people, so I will add my own version of this annoyance for future historians to rue my name if they ever find this blog and it is the only real narrative of the year 2013.
“Margaret Thatcher has died”
Anyway, back to work I feel. I am working on the first chapter of my thesis, looking at the overall experience of being on an Ancient Greek campaign which is not as dull as it sounds. But needs must, so off to London I must go.
But not before telling you about this amazing bookshop between Knighton (Owain Glyn Dwr country) and Ludlow (of Ludlow Castle fame) called Aardvark Books. It has a terrible layout and the History books are in a very bizarre order (Alphabetical by Book Title???) but it is dirt cheap (minimum of 50% less than marked RRP) and has some brilliant and hard to find titles! So if you are ever in the Welsh Marches I advise it as a way to lose a few hours.