Post by taf Post by Eric Kniffin Post by taf Post by Eric Kniffin
But what are Dugdale's sources? I'm looking, but haven't found out yet.
Often this is based on the presumption that everyone with a non-Anglo-Saxon
name holding land at Domesday must have come as part of the Conquest (broadly
Seriously? Mary Gould Woodhull said it because Freeman said it because
Dugdale said it, and Dugdale said it based on that kind of evidence?
I wasn't so much suggesting that Dugdale was the one who drew the conclusion based on this, but his predecessors, and their predecessors.
An appeal to authority can go wrong in this way. In the 20th century, Freeman was respected, so he was a quality secondary source for Woodhull. In the 19th century Dugdale was respected, so Freeman was comfortable using him. But in the 17th century there were sources respected by the likes of Dugdale that are now dismissed. One of the key shifts underlying modern historical research standards that sets them apart from previous practice is that appeal to authority is no longer adequate - you don't trust anyone, and if you can't trace it back to a primary source, you should not rely on it.
If only ...
Of course this doesn't help much if the primary source is wrong, but the
basic principle would be (and perhaps eventually will be) a milestone in
The main problem today is that scholars still trust each other far too
much. There is an assumption that if a fact is asserted in a
peer-reviewed, "scientific" or simply annotated publication then its
veracity must have been checked already. But countless hours can still
be wasted pursuing details from one cited secondary authority to another
only to reach a dead end in some living or recent historian's error.
As an example, the other day I came across this in the People of
Medieval Scotland database (here https://www.poms.ac.uk/record/person/323/):
"Gilla Míchéil ... died before 16 August 1139 and probably before 11
July 1136, when his successor, Duncan (Donnchad), appears".
The authority cited for the date 11 July 1136 is *Handbook of British
Chronology*, p. 508:
"Duncan, st. 16 August 1139 and prob. 11 July 1136".
The Handbook editors don't cite their sources, but in this case
(directly or indirectly) they were perhaps relying on *Scots Peerage*
that mentions "the dedication of the Church of Glasgow on 11 July 1136",
an occasion when Duncan was present and titled earl, drawing in turn on
Archibald Lawrie in *Early Scottish Charters*, pp. 348-9:
"It is stated in the charter by Bishop Herbert ... that King David
granted part of Partick on the day of the dedication of the church of
Glasgow; and as it is probable that this charter is that referred to, it
has commonly been dated 11 July, 1136, the day on which the church was
But Lawrie was mistaken - the dedication took place on 7 July according
to the only primary source which gives the date, the chronicle of
Holyrood under 1136 ("Dedicatio Glascuensis ecclesie, nonis Julii").
Generations of scholars through the 20th century and into the 21st have
apparently thought this point was not worth their trouble to
investigate, and/or that respected predecessors can simply be trusted to
get such things right.
Some readers of SGM are unfortunately prone to read about little
problems like this and think that's just a one-off, and they keep on
keeping on with the same level of unwarranted trust until another
mistake is pointed out, that they also suppose to be just another
one-off. That is, for instance, why we keep getting rubbish information
from the MedLands database rehashed here.