Very good points, and I agree with your reasons for using footnotes, though I am also a believer in explanatory ones which enhance the text without clogging it with detail that would, perhaps, derail the narrative.
Yes, there are lots of effective ways to write footnotes and they shouldn't get in the way of the narrative. That's not necessary and they can be terrific additions too--that includes well done explanatory footnotes, when they don't fit the narrative. Lots of options.
What I have a problem with is the apparent belief in the inherent dishonesty of a writer/author/historian when an error or errors is/are found, and that the writer/author/historian is not given the benefit of the doubt that perhaps the writer/author/historian just made a mistake (there's also a prevailing attitude at times in some places that telling someone he is wrong or inaccurate is the same thing as calling them a liar-it isn't the same thing at all).
I don't believe in any such dishonesty. Historians are fallable. If a footnote doesn't work or is invalid, I don't assume dishonest. When I see it in several places over several different works over several years. Those aren't simple mistakes. They are either gross ineptitude or dishonesty, particularly when they show skill and functional footnotes in other places. I don't toss around the word dishonest lightly, or very often.
There seems to be an obsession at times, quite akin to a shark feeding frenzy, in having to prove that the writer/author/historian has to be dishonest and deliberately attempting to perpetrate a fraud. Making errors is not dishonest, it is simply an error (I'm not speaking of anyone in particular, just writers/authors/historians in general, nor am I criticizing you, just a trend that is quite apparent on the forums when certain writers/authors/historians are mentioned). Not admitting errors when found is also quite human, though not very admirable. However, the 'fraud' police are getting to be quite old, and some of the accusations that come from them is somewhat fantastic at times.
Historiography doesn't assume honesty or dishonest. It doesn't depend on honesty at all. It is ALL evidence. You show it. period. As Barzun said, "Evidence that is not properly and effectively presented isn't present."
I certainly agree that any number of folks like to play "gotcha", often without any reason. Historians show their work so it can be tested. That's the whole point. When it is corrected, that is just part of the process, most often improving the history and usually having no reprecussions concerning the historian's reputation.
I do think that most of the folks that spend some time in
the study of an historic period generally know when they find a whopper or when a writer/author/historian has erred, has grossly erred, or is telling a tall tale. I really don't see the point to going to the great lengths to
'investigate' a perceived 'fraud.' The folks that read and study a lot really don't need to be 'enlightened' in such matters as the oft-referred to Hamilton-Williams situation. It was almost a no-brainer that he was at least in error many times over. There's too much accusation, both accurate and inaccurate, as well as threats, etc., going on with free use of pejorative terms that are quite hateful, hurtful, and without asking the person in question what his or her purpose was or why the perceived error occurred. I guess it's too hard to find them and ask them.
First, I see whoppers all the time that no one investigates. I gave one as an example. I certainly don't 'investigate such things.' I am not making an accusation. I am making a conclusion concerning Bowden from the evidence. I say that while admitting there are any number of positive things about his work.
Since you have brought up Scott Bowden, perhaps you or anyone else who has a question on his works should just look up his email on the internet as I did and ask him yourself. It's easy enough, and he is a very nice fellow and gentleman who is quite intelligent, articulate, and easy to talk to. I found him so and quite enjoyed the conversation.
I did. I wrote three letters way back in 1982-4 concerning his Wargram OOBs, asking for information about the discrepancies. He never answered. So I asked Mike to check Bowden's references while he did some other research for me in France. (It could have been typos or simple errors.) After Mike found that the sources didn't match his data I wrote him twice again. Nothing. I called him. He never returned my call. I wasn't accusatory in any of the communication. I simply said, this is what you write, this is your sources, These are the errors--what's correct? Then I wrote this is what I/Mike found. What is the explanation? Nothing.
I have no doubt he is a fine fellow, but obviously I never found that out. I am not talking about him, I am talking about his work. If there is another explanation for the Wagram data and the Austerlitz sources, I am more than willing to listen. But I put my time in. All of the issues I have mentioned, I have stumbled on or have been shown by others. I haven't gone looking for them. Playing gotcha is a sad game.
I never said anything about Bowden after the Wagram problems. I am making my conclusions now twenty years later when I see the same kind of source problems in a number of his works, both game rules (Ancient Empires has some 'whoppers' by any definition) and text that I did in 1982 without even looking for them.
I agree that it is a harsh statement. I don't say it lightly, and I am more than willing to retract it here if I am wrong. (It wouldn't be the first time.) Is there another explanation?