". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Proofing / Fact Checking, Why Yes, This Is A Big Part Of Writing

It took much of the morning and most of the afternoon to proof the 30 + pages that is our References list for The American Slave Coast (not the same thing as the citations sourcing various quoted text, facts and so on for those not familiar with the tedious process of writing this sort of work  -- which includes the delight of citing one of historian Andy Halls's posts from his blog, Dead Confederates, and a couple of other online friends and colleagues).

What's only interesting to me was noticing that when it comes to the books on the Reference list (there are other References too, that aren't books, but collections of papers and so on*), there are more books among those titles that are published by the University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill), than from any other publisher. Runners-up would be the LSU press, Yale University Press, Harvard University Press and Oxford University Press.

There's, of course, a lot of sourcing to digital materials put up by the Documenting the the American South project, which is one of the most useful tools for American history there is. Also to the University of Virginia's Southern History site, plus many others, including state Historical Societies. More and more state history magazines and journals have succeeded in digitizing their

archives, putting them online in searchable format -- as are a vast number of historical runs of no longer existing newspapers and magazines.

All this content -- as well other digital sources, such as JSTOR, can be accessed from one's own laptop at home.  Even five years ago when we began The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave Breeding Industry, a lot of this hadn't yet gone up. A miracle for researchers. That one can access holdings in institutions all over the world this way has changed research so much in just the last five years, it can't even be quantified.  For one thing it allows more people to actively pursue historical studies than ever before, people who didn't have the necessary advantage of being on a faculty at a university.

In ye olden days there were institutions that didn't allow access to materials at all to anyone who wasn't a certified academic or some other acceptable researcher, like a journalist affiliated with a Big Name paper, a presidential speech writer, and so on.   Often hefty fees for the privilege would be charged too.  This is no longer much the case.  Which is good. This is what I mean by "information wants to be free."


*  It must have been about five years ago too, when I read an observation made by Robert V. Remini, he, who despite having left us, still owns the Jacksonian Era: "When I first began doing this work," he said, speaking of his graduate school researches and the work that became the first volumes of his massive life of Andrew Jackson, the Jackson papers were all still in longhand, they hadn't been put into type yet and published.  The difference working with the typeset papers from attempting to decipher the handwriting of so many not all that literate correspondents and Jackson's own writing made my work so much faster and easier."


vs. this:

You decide.

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