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Meetings with Remarkable Forgeries (British History)
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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The new book was launched on 30th June. Review copies went out earlier and this is the first and, as I write, only reaction. It is from the Twitter account of the senior editor of one of Britain's leading history mags. I've run a few comments together and lightly edited it.

Been sent a book arguing pre-1300 manuscripts are forged. I've never been happier. Well, that's my day's work scuppered. I can't breathe a little bit. I've been completely useless for an hour now. Truly, I can die happy. Isn't it so wonderful? I'm dizzy with joy. I will carry it with me always. The trouble is, I haven't yet managed to read an entire paragraph because my brain kind of... melts

What we in the trade call 'a mixed review'. One of her correspondents is familiar with one of my earlier works

Oh god I once read this guy's book on the history of britain and even as an undergrad it made me feel sick.

That delights me in all kinds of ways. I am not anticipating too many sales from her other followers. Here are some highlights

If this person can be published, I might as well be too... What an idiot.

£12.95? That's expensive bog roll!!

...wow, this was copy-edited by a howler monkey.

That prose is... legendary in its badness. I fully support more casual prose in historical writing, but this is like READING cancer

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Mick Harper
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In: London
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Still, I have learned from their comments that I have made an unfortunate ricket on a page that Amazon lets everyone read, so it's kinda serious. This is what I wrote

I can't offer you any science either -- I've never clapped eyes on any of them -- nor can I offer you any new scholarship -- they wouldn't allow me a ticket to the British Library Reading Room (not if they've got any sense).

To get into the old British Museum Reading Room you needed two academic accreditations. This was not just elitism but because space was drastically limited. I hadn't realised that when they moved the whole shebang to the new British Library Reading Room in these more democratic times, anyone can get in just by showing proof of identity. As one of the Twitterfolk put it rather wittily, "Doesn't the guy have a gas bill?" Oh well, can't be helped. I expect it will get worse before it gets better.
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Hatty
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In: Berkshire
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An interesting tweet among the general outcry:

Are these claims of forgery made up themselves for similar reasons medieval forgeries may have been created?

No-one's replied to this yet.
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N R Scott


In: Middlesbrough
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I've just spent the last hour or so reading through the Twitter furore you've created. Very entertaining lol - reading the actual book will almost be an afterthought (I've ordered a copy).

The obvious irony that they're absolutely certain about books that are 800 years old yet unable to tell if a book that was published a week or so ago is a genuine work or an exercise in trolling seems lost on everyone. Also their bewilderment at how someone could publish a book without a publisher seems especially naive given their supposed area of expertise.

They remind me of my friends that are into Harry Potter and RPG games and stuff like that - academically clever, but not very streetwise.
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Wile E. Coyote


In: Arizona
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It's a really interesting collective response.

I actually thought this was worth a look.
Uh, so where did the texts they copied in the 12th century come from, does he think?

Unfortunately met by ......
DO NOT ASK QUESTIONS


Which was just loved by the peanut gallery.......

Not having read M Harper's book, I selected Bede Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum to try and answer a question (which was being blocked) myself and fell back on Wiki. I know it's not the best source but still........

The Historia Ecclesiastica was copied often in the Middle Ages, and about 160 manuscripts containing it survive. About half of those are located on the European continent, rather than on the British Isles.[47] [48] This total does not include manuscripts with only a part of the work, of which another 100 or so survive. It was printed for the first time between 1474 and 1482, probably at Strasbourg, France.[47] Modern historians have studied the Historia extensively, and a number of editions have been produced.[49] For many years, early Anglo-Saxon history was essentially a retelling of the Historia, but recent scholarship has focused as much on what Bede did not write as what he did. The belief that the Historia was the culmination of Bede's works, the aim of all his scholarship, a belief common among historians in the past, is no longer accepted by most scholars.[50]

The Historia Ecclesiastica has given Bede a high reputation, but his concerns were different from those of a modern writer of history.[3] His focus on the history of the organization of the English church, and on heresies and the efforts made to root them out, led him to exclude the secular history of kings and kingdoms except where a moral lesson could be drawn or where they illuminated events in the church.[3] Besides the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the medieval writers William of Malmesbury, Henry of Huntingdon, and Geoffrey of Monmouth used his works as sources and inspirations.[51] Early modern writers, such as Polydore Virgil and Matthew Parker, the Elizabethan Archbishop of Canterbury, also utilized the Historia, and his works were used by both Protestant and Catholic sides in the Wars of Religion.[52]

Some historians have questioned the reliability of some of Bede's accounts. One historian, Charlotte Behr, asserts that the Historia's account of the arrival of the Germanic invaders in Kent should be considered as current myth, not history.


Most of the 8th- and 9th-century texts of Bede's Historia come from the northern parts of the Carolingian Empire.


The likeliest source statistically, for the "early 8th- and 9th-century Bedes" anyway, is.... the northern parts of the Carolingian empire. Eh, Carolingian empire?

Use of the term "Carolingian Empire" is a modern convention. The language of official acts in the empire was Latin. The empire was referred to variously as universum regnum ("the whole kingdom", as opposed to the regional kingdoms), Romanorum sive Francorum imperium ("empire of the Romans and Franks"), Romanum imperium ("Roman empire") or even imperium christianum ("Christian empire").


Which really got me thinking......
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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I should remind members who have read the book -- or have not been able to finish reading the book -- that not posting a review
a) is impolite since the only reason can be to spare the author embarrassment and that therefore it does not spare the author embarrassment and
b) is a clear dereliction of duty. For Chrissake if you lot can't, who the hell can? Do not spare the horses.
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Ishmael


In: Toronto
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Still awaiting my copy.
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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It was sent at least two weeks ago (more like three). However you would be doing me an extra favour if you ordered one from American Amazon and kept a strict record of everything that transpired from then on. It is a different chain of command and while the British one is (now) working well, we have no knowledge of how (or indeed whether) the American printers of the book are up to snuff.
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aurelius



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Still reading mine, keep on wanting to refer back to the conversation on The Second Dark Age but it has been removed...
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Mick Harper
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Ah, we had a bit of a re-organisation. If you (and any one else this applies to) log out and then log back in, you should see a whole section called the Reading Room, which is available only to members. The Second Dark Age is in the section called Revisionist Military History (don't ask). Please report back on your experiences.
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aurelius



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Mick Harper wrote:
Ah, we had a bit of a re-organisation. If you (and any one else this applies to) log out and then log back in, you should see a whole section called the Reading Room, which is available only to members. The Second Dark Age is in the section called Revisionist Military History (don't ask). Please report back on your experiences.


No, it's not visible for me and I noticed this a few weeks ago. All I have access to under Reading Room is AEL's Own Books, RMS Titanic, Weather Underground and Edward VI: King Of Egypt.

Revisionist Military History, which definitely used to be there, is invisible.
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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Ishmael, could you add Aurelius to Exalted Status? It's basically because a lot of material in this section is going into the next book so we're keeping the also-rans out. Not that we're elitist or anything. Anyone else having a problem post here, or post to me if you're shy.
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Wile E. Coyote


In: Arizona
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Mick Harper wrote:
Ishmael, could you add Aurelius to Exalted Status?


I too have been relegated to subordinate. Snivel.

BTW my local bookshop is still saying they cant order MWRF.

BBTW I am beginning to suspect, judging by the reviews, you might have published a trilogy comprising of just one part.....I admire your originality, normally trilogies get expanded not reduced.... but for the reader seeking VFM this might be a bit of a put off?
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N R Scott


In: Middlesbrough
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Wile E. Coyote wrote:
I too have been relegated to subordinate. Snivel.

Me likewise.

I'd just assumed I'd been quarantined because of my conspiracist leanings. This would actually be a good policy on your part, as although I would never divulge information for personal or financial reasons, I will if I deem it in the public interest. The grand chess board will always take precedence over a single book.
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N R Scott


In: Middlesbrough
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Mick Harper wrote:
not posting a review is a clear dereliction of duty.


I've almost finished the book (just the last chapter to go). I have no negative criticism to raise. It's very easy to read. It's a very good companion to THOBR. It kind of finishes off the demolition job.

My only disappointment is that the people mentioning it on Twitter haven't offered any actual technical criticism of it yet (at least I haven't seen any). It just seems to be a general "really? is he actually saying that?" response. I was hoping they'd put up a bit more of a fight.

Also, it seems a little bit odd that all the authorities on history seem to be good looking young women now. Where's the bearded authority? I think this is a big faux pas on the establishment's part. It's similar with the war on scientism now playing out online. People like Brian Cox and Neil deGrasse Tyson are very TV friendly, but they completely lack gravitas. So they make the orthodox academic position look weak in the long run.
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