Time for a rant. This one has been brewing all day.
Here are a few random gripes, presented in no particular order. All of these are things that I hate about Civil War books.
1. Books that do not have bibliographies. See Tom Carhart. This permits authors to cut corners, big time. It also allows them to avoid being held accountable for the quality and quantity of their research.
2. Books that do not have maps. If you ever want to go nuts, try to read a history of a complex battle without any decent maps. Not including maps is corner cutting of the worst variety.
3. Books endorsed by people who obviously haven’t read them. One very prominent historian sent me a glowing endorsement for a dust jacket blurb for one of my projects without reading the manuscript. His comment was to the gist of I know your work, so I assume it’s going to be a great book, and I don’t need to read it as a result. It’s quite a compliment, but it meant that he was putting his imprimatur on the book sight unseen. What if I had written absolute, utter garbage? This particular fellow’s imprimatur lends instant credibility. This sort of thing is bad news, and it apparently goes on far more than any of us realize.
4. Books written to advocate a particular theory or position but which are not intellectually honest enough to tell the reader this up front. Stephen Sears is a prime example of what I mean here. Each of his books has a theme. Take his Chancellorsville book: Hooker was not as bad as has been portrayed, he did a good job of managing the battle, and it was someone else’s fault. The whole book is oriented around this. I don’t have a problem with people having opinions, and I also don’t have a bit of problem with authors stating them, even if it’s to advocate a position. Just be honest and tell me that’s what you’re doing.
5. Notes lumped together at the end of a paragraph that amalgamate six or seven sources, making it nearly impossible to figure out what came from where. Give me notes to each source, please.
6. Authors who quote themselves as the authority for things that they say. It reminds me of a legend that we heard in law school. The former dean of my law school supposedly quoted one of his own works as THE authority for a proposition of law that he was arguing before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Too many authors do that sort of thing. It’s lazy, and it cuts corners.
7. Books with lousy production values. White Mane is the primary example of what I mean here. They don’t edit, they don’t proofread, and there is almost no quality control. That permits the plagiarism of other people’s works. See my review of one of their recent books for an example of what I mean here.
8. Books that are based almost entirely on the repackaging and regurgitation of secondary sources. Again, this is intellectual dishonesty, because it means that the author has not done his or her homework and is piggybacking on the fruits of someone else’s labors. See my review of the book in the link indicated above for a good example of what I mean here.
There are, undoubtedly, more things to add to this list, but this is all I can think of at the moment. I will keep a list and add to this rant as I think of more things worth adding.Scridb filter