Being a historian is difficult.
There’s the slog work as I call it; the readings, the theories, the whiteboard sessions, the late nights and early mornings, the travel (and travel food and budgets and not having a proper workspace on trains etc).
There’s the archives and libraries; most are fine, but some….some would try the patience of a saint. ID, more ID, that’s out of date by 4 minutes, you need to leave, go home, repent your sins, say 1,000,000 hail mary’s, flagellate yourself with barbed wire (á la Christy Moore) and return having completed the journey on your knees, unworthy one! Those kind of archives! We all know them!
Add to that the general lack of cash and wow factor associated with the field (sometimes) and then you’d really wonder why people like us bother with it at all? Is it an ego stroke? Maybe a bit being brutally honest. Do we think we’re Indiana Jones? Maybe a little bit too; ongoing debate in this household over my suitability to a Borsalino hat…. But mainly, I think anyway (my working thesis if you’ll permit), is that we poor souls undertake historical research in order to advance the store of human knowledge, to peel back the layers of dust and doubt and then to allow some light filter in. I think that’s why I do it.
Now I don’t ask for much (I’m not getting it regardless); maybe a liveable wage at some stage in the future and some intelligent questions. And the knowledge that all of our slog work is recognised in the form of a citation, or a reference in other work. The knowledge that we have transcended death and have entered the pantheon of historiography. Morior Invictus – In Death I remain Undefeated.
So when you see your work (as a colleague recently did), quoted in a certain West of Ireland based newspaper, without any references, that is pretty heartbreaking. The guy in question is a superstar, but he’s no Mick Jagger; he’s the chap who taught Jagger everything he knows and probably invented Rock and Roll as well. That’s just how good his research is, that’s just how solid his YEARS and YEARS of painstaking research have been. Honestly folks, this guy’s effort rate makes me shudder when I think of people reading my own work.
But this paper, did they give him a mention? Did they hell! They published the story, large chunks ripped from his work online with no citation. Now I’m not saying it would be easy to track him down. I’m not using his name here deliberately as it took me weeks to track him through IP addresses, site registry etc. So I can respect his anonymity; but what you can do at least is to cite the page the work came from. Do the decent thing. But never fear, the rag trade remains in the gutter on this one.
So I say this in conclusion. We’ve all omitted citations at various stages (including myself and I was pulled on it by another chap and he was right and I was wrong!), but we should acknowledge others work. It doesn’t devalue ours, it shows we’re committed to furthering the store of human knowledge by ‘standing on the shoulders of giants!’ David (I’ll give this much of your ID here only), David you deserve the credit they didn’t give you. You work on the Auxiliaries and Irish policing is first rate sir.
Cite folks, its polite, professional and appreciated.