2021-08-12 18:07:11 UTC
While his errors have been pointed out before here, I recently came across an error in Cawley's MedLands that is a perfect example, and a perfect warning, why he is not to be trusted even when he quotes (or at least seems to quote) directly from a primary source.
In describing the wife of Duncan II of Scotland,
"The Cronicon Cumbriæ records that “Ethreda sorore Waldevi patris sui” married “Doncani comes de Murrayse” and that their son “Willielmus” succeeded her nephew “Alanus filius Waldevi”."
What the Cronicon Cumbriæ actually says is:
“Cui Alano successit Will[elmus] filius Doncani, comes de Murrafe, nepos ipsius Alani et heres procreatus ex Ethreda sorore Waldevi patris sui”
Alan was succeeded by William fitz Duncan, Earl of Moray, Alan's cousin and heir, born to Ethreda, sister of his [Alan's] father Waltheof.
It is William, not Duncan, who is claimed as Earl of Moray, as is clear from a second instance in the same document, "Willelmus comes de Murray filius Doncany", and the source says absolutely nothing about Duncan other than in WIlliam's patronymic, and certainly makes no reference to his marriage. To dress up his later narrative he repreats five times that the source refers to "'Willelmus', son of 'Doncani comes de Murrayse'", combining this phrase with quotes from other paragraphs in the original that do not refer to William in this way, using the quoting as simple decoration rather than to convey what is actually in the source.
It is unclear if this was all intentionally taken out of context in order to pretend the source said something it didn't or instead is just indicative of extreme sloppiness. It is unlikely many readers would envision the words being misleadingly used in this way, instead trusting that the source actually says what it is quoted as saying. This is why Cawley's work is so problematic for the uninitiated, having all of the trappings of scholarship, but not its actual substance. That is not to say he hasn't put in a lot of work, looked at a lot of sources, but just as I have looked at a lot of airplanes and still cannot fly one, so with Cawley and his sources. It is a mug's game to use his work as anything more than a tool selective finding aid for overlooked sources to be dug out and looked at directly, rather than trusting what Cawley says about them.