The History Book

Articles and Posts

My Personal views on Academic History and Research

  • Mike Parsons
  • 2015/05/22
  • General Views
  • published

After a career in the IT industry, I took redundancy/early retirement and started a full-time degree in my lifetime interest of Military History. I was surprised at the low level of understanding of how Information Technology can aid the understanding and exploration of the subject. The whole of the academic world seems stuck using 19th century information technology in a 21st century world. New ways to present and understand history through the use of modern technology is viewed with deep suspicion. The forefront of technology is considered the word-processor which is after all really just an upgrade of the 19th century typewriter.

The use of the Web for research is coincided very much a no-no. This is worrying as the Web was invented to aid the publishing of academic research papers. The first web servers where at CERN near Geneva. The World Wide Web has developed and blossomed since then, however within the world of the professional historian the democratization of information, such as wikipedia and its susceptibility to inaccurate postings, has branded the internet in particular and information technology in general as unreliable. The reason this site exists is to explore how IT can support an exploration of History with an academically acceptable level of rigour.

I attended to a Conference on the Battle of the Atlantic. It was held in Liverpool to coincide with the 70th anniversary celebrations. Hosted by my old professor Eric Grove it lasted two days with some 28 speakers most professional academic historians. One theme that arose several times was the persistence of various myths that are held by the public which are simply wrong or at best gross exaggerations, and this got me thinking about this blog.

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The original idea was formed while I was at university (I was a mature student so it was only a few years ago.) and the general level of web ignorance which was show. There was however another shock I had, the history I thought I knew was often not the one seen by academics. An example was what I may term the 'Zuber incident'. Terrence Zuber wrote his doctorate thesis on whether the schlieffen plan actually existed. He then went on to argue that as it did not then Germany was innocent of the charge of starting the war. While his views are not entirely accepted the point about the non-existence of the most famous plan in history is now at least part of the debate about the First World War. A debate which takes place largely behind the closed doors of the academic journals. True books are published on the subject but who has a time and money to read them all.

In short the reason that the public hold to the myths of history is because no one tells them differently. My original article on rifled muskets tried to show the issues on that subject and I hope to restart them in the near future as a started however I offer Tim Woodward's dissertation on the battle of the Denmark straits, Tim was one of the speakers at the conference, we also did our degrees together. He analyses the battle and the performance of Vice Admiral Holland. Putting VADM Holland's Actions During the Battle of the Denmark Strait into Context . Tim has refined his views over the years since writing this but has given his permission to link to this blog. While I agree with his comments on the use/not use of radar I personally think the issue needs some more explanation. Perhaps I will persuade him to give us a view of his current views who knows.