Napoleon Series Archive 2009

Historical Inquiry - we're trying...

Kevin,

You seem very quick to offer sweeping condemnation of open-mindedness of (unnamed) others' and their capacity to evaluate and learn from good information and well-grounded discussion. You point to that on SÚnarmont as a good example. Really? Of whose fixed position? I contributed heavily - do you refer to me?

I share your belief that new, well-sourced information is valuable. Why wouldn't you expect that to be a widely shared value? Does the opinion of those who wouldn't value new, well-sourced information really worry you? Doesn't worry me.

Do you really mean to assert that we are NOT conducting historical inquiry??? How so? What are we doing wrong? What steps have we missed? Do I understand you to equate "historical inquiry" with the process of "finding the ubiquitous 'new' material'? That's how your post reads to me. Surely I misunderstand.

Sure, lots of dynamics are going on in parallel to, and sometimes in competition with, the Discussion Forum's exploration of history - it's a discussion forum. I don't find that to be a problem - do you?

Yes, "incorrect" material is posted all the time - lots of it is published, too - and that is one of the great values of a discussion forum: to evaluate it, turn it over, look at it from many angles, and assess whether information is useful, accurate, reliable, sourced, relevant, and so forth. Personally, I am a little leery of the judgment of "incorrect" sweepingly applied. Sometimes that appearance of rectitude rests on the angle from which data is viewed, the purpose to which it is applied, the chronology in which it is framed, and so forth...and sometimes it genuinely is just plain wrong. But how else can we evaluate it without discussing it with reference to good sources?

The subject of canister was interesting to a number of participants. It has several intriguing elements to it - not all of them were definitively addressed. You may disagree with any number of the proposed hypotheses, and that's fine, but surely there is scope to explore them to the point where they can be knocked down on their own demerits, evolved towards something that sheds more light, or confirmed.

In my own personal experience, when I proposed here in 1998/9 that Napoleonic armies formed for battle using a method of sequencing of regiments based on seniority, most of those discussing the question with me dismissed it as unlikely. I believe I have subsequently made a strong case that such was, indeed, the system. Modern received wisdom was overturned by well documented research.

You have made several general assertions about "incorrect" material. I can appreciate that you may tire of repeating specifics, but with the passage of time, your interlocutors may be forgiven for losing track of what it is you think is "incorrect". I also have been unclear in any number of instances whether the material you have judged to be "incorrect" was deemed to be so in your OPINION, of was OBJECTIVELY incorrect. You sometimes appear to operate with a great deal of certitude that does not always come with evident foundation.

Please don't suggest that I indicated you should not post material - I did not. My message was conditioned on your claim that YOU didn't think others would pay it any mind, it was conditioned on your negative approach to the question. I urged you to consider a positive approach, not one that dismissed potential opponents before the discussion even starts.

Of course the rules apply to me. What grounds or examples do you have for suggesting they might not? What pejorative material have I posted? I am posting now as a private individual - I strive to be clear about when I post as a moderator. If you think I have transgressed the rules, there is both another moderator and the editor-in-chief to whom you can address concerns. I am not above the rules. But being one of the moderators does not bar me from private participation. I do not appreciate the innuendo without clear evidence.

You may find my quest for well-grounded discussion annoying. This is not a fiction-writer's discussion group, but one dedicated to exploring the history of a particular period, as you know. Key to ANY discussion is ascertaining how we know what we think we know. Historians and those interested in history must examine and re-examine that fundamental aspect repeatedly. And that is a key method for protecting against "incorrect" information and ideas, while nurturing that which gets us closer to a better understanding of the period and its elements. The only way to ground the answer to the question of "how do we know what we think we know" is to be able to point to the provenance of our information. When that provenance is secondary, it often is valuable to push beyond and question how THAT source came to know what it asserts. At some point, that trail needs to lead to something contemporary with the period, or its assertion becomes questionable, and more like fiction. An author's reputation is to be valued, to be sure, but it is not enough to support historical inquiry; that necessitates a clear trail that leads back to the history under investigation.

Hence, my questions about SÚnarmont at Friedland, or about the British retreat from Plattsburgh. I found a dearth of well-sourced information to support assertions made in your posts. You are a well-read participant, an experienced writer and historian, a veteran gunner, so I am interested in your analyses. You are someone in a position to provide deeper insights than those generated by secondary authors whose own research does not always seem to actually connect to the period. You are in a position to help others see deeper than the opinions or assertions offered by many secondary sources, to give better context through your own familiarity with the underlying and primary sources. So I have been surprised by their absence in the threads on SÚnarmont and Plattsburgh, for instance.

If you find interesting and useful, well-grounded material, that will contribute to helping others see more clearly or deeply into aspects of the period we all share, I certainly hope you, or anyone else, will post it.

Respectfully - Howie

Messages In This Thread

French Napoleonic artillery doctrine
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Historical Inquiry - we're trying...
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Gribeauval's wheels are falling off
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Obtaining Rosen Thesis
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Rosen Thesis
Instructions to obtain Rosen Thesis
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Gribeauval et al
Spain
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Wheels of misfortune and what about Plattsburgh?
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Gribeauval Field, Valliere Siege, Manson Coast
Wheels of Misfortune
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M1792 Reforms by Manson
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Clarification
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That's it, my date was off :O *NM*
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