Two kinds of historian

There are two kinds of historian. One kind searches scrupulously for undiscovered sources before writing and the other glibly quotes those that are generally available, even when serious questions have been raised about them. This is the easier approach and some would call it lazy. Most of us know who belongs in which category.

Other writers divide similarly and this is never truer than when Richard III is the subject at hand. The former kind have minds that are open to new evidence about his life and times whilst the latter take the questioned sources as gospel. If they ignore new evidence, it will go away, so it seems. For instance, the claim that Henry “Tudor” “won the crown in open battle” whereas Richard did not ignores the fact that this gave Henry VII the same right to the crown as a puppet of Napoleon or Hitler would have had, until ratified by Parliament. It also ignores the fact that Richard III was petitioned to take the throne by the quasi-Parliament* who, having known Edward IV, heard Stillington’s testimony in that context.

That is one example, but there are plenty more. We can also judge historians (and writers) by their track records – the first set include those who predicted where exactly to find Richard and who to mtDNA test him against, who uniquely identified Lady Eleanor Talbot when the second set said it couldn’t be done, whilst the second set define “evidence” as anything that supports their wrecked assumptions.

As time passes, more open minds will come across the first category of history (fact-based) and discover Richard III as he truly was, not as his successor’s paid liars portrayed him. The second category, of historian and other writer, will progressively become less relevant, envious as they are of the attention Richard attracts through his physical rediscovery. They will eventually deceive nobody but the dwindling number of themselves.

* as attested to by Dr. Sutton’s rediscovery of Richard’s 28 June letter (in which he sent a copy of the said petition to Lord Mountjoy in Calais, Ricardian, June 1977). It was, as the otherwise hostile Gairdner admitted, ” (almost) …. a constitutional election”.

By super blue

Grandson of a Town player.

1 comment

  1. Spot on, Stephen. There are track records and there are track records – ask Lance Armstrong. Not that I’m saying these bad historians and writers do what he did, just that they gain reputations that are not deserved. May the last of their kind be stuffed and displayed in a glass case!


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