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Meetings with Remarkable Forgeries (British History)
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Ishmael


In: Toronto
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These people have no sense of humor. They ought to be kept away from children.
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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I disagree, they are having a whale of a time, though I agree the humour is a bit leaden. But there’s a couple of technical points. A bloke called Geoffrey Mamdani bafflingly claims

And there's the cover quote for the second edition!

First I’ve heard of a second edition but let's hope he knows more than I do. But whatever he means Levi Roach seems to know

Somehow I won't be surprised if the existing endorsements were elicited in that fashion...

I’m always trying to elicit endorsements but no matter how I twist Dr Roach's suggestion I just can’t see how this works. I'd sure as hell like to, it sounds a doozy, so have any of you any suggestions? Any stick can be used to beat the author, no matter how trifling, and Sarah Barker enquires

Also, did it go all the way to Cornwall and get sent back to Exeter? Not to doubt the research skills, but the uni address is not secret.

Mr Roach was listed as 'lecturer in medieval history, Exeter University' at Penrhyn, so Urquhart sent his review copy there. He was however at the time in the main campus at Exeter. Does this say more about a) Exeter University’s forwarding skills or b) M J Harper’s research skills? Levi sides with Sarah

Yes, it must have! I did wonder what this says about his research skills..
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Ishmael


In: Toronto
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Mick Harper wrote:
I disagree, they are having a whale of a time,


I see only people rushing to signal to one another that they subscribe to the group's assumptions.

They don't appear to see in your letter that their nose is being tweaked. They read it literally.
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Wile E. Coyote


In: Arizona
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I tend to agree with Ish.

I personally see all this as a good sign, as it is a characteristic of a failing paradigm that it cannot adapt or refute ideas that threaten its existence.

There are now a number of folks now begging for a dragon slayer, to step forward. Yet the best that they come up with is a old review of a previous book ("Here is an account of someone I might have known that once slew a dragon (err) well at least they said they did"), in other words, a non dragon slaying.

Orthodoxy looks like it needs a hero. Step forward please.
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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Wondrous example of the blind leading the blind from our tormentor-in-chief Kate Wiles, editor of History Today.

WA Archaeology: A student found an ancient Canadian village that’s 10,000 years older than the Pyramids:

Kate Wiles:: The longevity and accuracy of oral histories amaze me sometimes

It doesn't take a lot to amaze our Kate, she's in a permanet state of excitement about all manner of things. [Voice off: better than your permanent state of cynical grumpiness.] But leaving aside the non-sequitur nature of her comment, one wonders how a professional historian judges oral history. They are after all in the business of evaluating written sources.

When there are written sources, presumably oral material can be weighed at least for general reliability but then again, if there are written sources, the oral stuff is not particularly valuable. Still, not everything's on the record so oral history certainly has its place. When there are no written sources, as for example the last fifteen thousand years in Canada, then what people say now, or what ethnologists recorded them saying a hundred years ago, regarding fifteen thousand year old villages might seem to be stretching Chinese whispers a bit far.

But the real menace is when there kinda is and there kinda isn't written evidence. As me and Hatty are finding out on a daily basis, what happens then is that historians say whatever they like and then claim their sources are taken from oral history. Or more specifically they cite what historians a hundred years ago said was what people were telling them about events that happened a thousand, even fifteen hundred years ago.

By popular tradition the church is associated with St Edwinifrith, the seventh century Anglo-Saxon princess mentioned by Bede. Although no physical evidence of the Anglo-Saxon minster has been found this is undoubtedly due to Mercian ecclesiastical architecture being destroyed by .... [fill in from this list, more than one will be awarded extra marks: Vikings, Danes, Wessex, Normans, Gothic revivalists (either), Cromwell (either), Victorian renovators, the Luftwaffe, postwar planners, the M6 motorway, other.]
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Hatty
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In: Berkshire
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When there really isn't anyone to blame, oral history comes to the rescue. I am still convalescing from the shock of reading Stenton -- yes, the Stenton, Grand Master of Anglo-Saxon studies -- who declared absence from the historical record (of St Frideswide) must mean her cult existed.

His words have had rather dire repercussions. Just the other week one of Kate Wiles's medievalist cronies retweeted an article about an eighth-century Gospel Book "probably made in Northumbria" that claims "there is much to be learned from what doesn’t survive"

and
Absence is itself a form of evidence, and the absences in this manuscript can help to reveal its story.


So is it to be a new orthodoxy that absence of evidence means evidence of evidence?
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Wile E. Coyote


In: Arizona
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Hatty wrote:
When there really isn't anyone to blame, oral history comes to the rescue. I am still convalescing from the shock of reading Stenton -- yes, the Stenton, Grand Master of Anglo-Saxon studies -- who declared absence from the historical record (of St Frideswide) must mean her cult existed.

His words have had rather dire repercussions. Just the other week one of Kate Wiles's medievalist cronies retweeted an article about an eighth-century Gospel Book "probably made in Northumbria" that claims "there is much to be learned from what doesn’t survive"

and
Absence is itself a form of evidence, and the absences in this manuscript can help to reveal its story.


So is it to be a new orthodoxy that absence of evidence means evidence of evidence?



Having read Stenton, on "what was actually her name, even if she actually existed err as a name/cult" I can see what he is getting at, and how he is trying to rationalise the evidence. He did after all have a lot of names and not much narrative to draw on until the later period of his ....expertise. He does not have the assistance of modern archaeology etc. I must admit I quite liked the small bit I read, he proceeds by the chain of reasonable inferences. He is quite open about all this, which allows us to draw our own conclusions. Wish there were modern historians like him.

OK thats enough defending orthodoxy to overthrow them. Here is how we see the so called "Maiden problem."
1) You can use your brain to creatively slot her as a person into the record of the period under study. (providing you provide copious footnotes and a exciting new find which isnt conclusive etc honorary doctorate awaits you)
2) You can imagine her as myth from a previous period. (Stenton)
3) You can treat her as a latter invention. (for a purpose)
4) You can opt for a truthful. "We dont know" But this is a dead end unless you are clear what you do know, and why you dont know this about the Maiden.
5) You can write Hero.
6) Better answer than the above. Please enlighten me.
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Hatty
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In: Berkshire
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6) Better answer than the above. Please enlighten me.

You ask Cui bono? and put her in context.

If you look at other 12th/13th C foundations, vying for land grants and resources, a striking phenomenon is the number of cults that are being set up. Frideswide is one example of a cult figure, local but with standard features likely to gain a following. Oxford is competing too.

2) You can imagine her as myth from a previous period. (Stenton)

Cult myths are from a later period! There are intentionally archaic elements (the monastery/priory/ whatever is after all supposed to be antient). Either Biblical or folkloric motifs or a mixture of the two will serve.
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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If you're offering a fertility cult it is best to have something earlier than Mary. Everyone's got a Mary.
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Wile E. Coyote


In: Arizona
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Mick Harper wrote:
If you're offering a fertility cult it is best to have something earlier than Mary. Everyone's got a Mary.


Yes Frideswide is a different type of girl. (very mysterious, rumours abound)

I have to say its been a bold impressive descent by Hats, who deserves to win the stage. Wiley however, is applying the back brake on Frideswide.

At least I might still manage a finish in the peleton.
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Mick Harper
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Yes Frideswide is a different type of girl. (very mysterious, rumours abound)

They've got that covered too i.e. the Black Madonna, Mary Magdalen, etc etc
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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The search is over! Not only have they found an Anglo-Saxon church they've been able to make a 3-D model of it
https://sketchfab.com/models/71f3def88f9b48e3bd2c25c81700dcd5

Hatty and I will have to abandon our next project. Such a nuisance after investigating the other hundred and odd claimed Anglo-Saxon church sites and coming up with zero churches. As you know, in our business one is enough for the academics to live another day.
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Wile E. Coyote


In: Arizona
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https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMINBig.ASP?size=big&IllID=15309
https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMINBig.ASP?size=big&IllID=26188

They are still visualising it on psalters.

They have to hang their ideas on something.
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Ishmael


In: Toronto
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Review

I've been remiss in posting my review of Meetings with Remarkable Forgeries. I have been slow to post here on many topics these days as what willpower I have to write goes into the writing of the deserts book exclusively. But I've probably been reluctant to post on this particular topic because I found the book to be very hard going. However; what shortcomings I might perceive in the text were more than made up for by the final chapter---and one sentence within that final chapter at that, which posits the most original, brilliant, and instantly convincing thesis regarding the origins of the British Industrial Revolution I have ever encountered!

Just what this topic has to do with the rest of the book is not so clear to me. Really. Yes. I do have a sense of the linkage---that the invention of demotic writing made wide-spread learning possible for those outside the academy. But the problem is that this tie is never explicitly made by the author.

Now I might be wrong. Perhaps Mick does state it explicitly. But if he does, I managed to miss it. It's nowhere presented in the form of some sort of conclusive statement. The absence of clear conclusions is also a large part of why I found the rest of the book so hard going.

Now part of the problem I had was that the book assumes a lot on the part of the reader: It assumes I know something about British Manuscripts. And I do not. It assumes I know something about British geography, for that matter. And I do not. Perhaps this is fine as the book is intended as a reply to Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts and perhaps Mick is justified in assuming that his readers are familiar with that book. And I am not. But the central assumption Mick makes throughout Meetings with Remarkable Forgeries is that the reader is smart enough to draw his own conclusions. And I am not.

Typically, arguments follow a familiar structure: An author introduces a thesis, defends it with supporting evidence, and sums it all up with a concluding passage in which the thesis is demonstrated from the evidence. In Meetings with Remarkable Forgeries, this does not appear to happen. Theses are introduced; lots of facts are then mentioned that appear related to the thesis, but then we are on to the next topic before learning what exactly we are meant to conclude from those facts. I was left scratching my head throughout the book, wondering just why the author was so sure that the manuscripts in question were faked.

Yes yes. That the manuscripts were manufactured for the purpose of real-estate fraud is clearly what is being argued---and the orthodox position is effectively undermined by sheer force of ridicule---but I never get a clear presentation of the argument against it. I never encounter a satisfactory closing statement at the tail end of a section that ties up the long list of loose ends I've struggled to keep in my head while reading. Neither do I get a clear statement of what it is I am to keep in mind as I proceed into future sections. I'm still confused as to whether or not Mick is claiming that the monasteries themselves invented these languages.

The book is, of course, brilliantly funny. It is a joy to read such books on academic subjects that are also so entertaining! There's nothing else like it published today. I hope Mick produces more of this and more often. Next time though, I encourage him to pay more attention to structure, for us readers who are a little more slow to grasp his arguments.
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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You wouldn't have been so charitable if you had been more knowledgeable about the background

We have consulted, and agree that we really don't want anything to do with this farrago of nonsense, or to give Mr Harper any more publicity.
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