GC Jack, on 01 April 2012 - 04:24 PM, said:
Thank you Tom for posting this.
Perhaps my earlier posting was poorly phrased.
As I have made clear I am researching this and other railway accidents. The case of sabotage is an interesting one.
One of the facts - which is verifiable by national newspaper reports - is that just one day after the accident rumours were circulating that a German agent had tampered with the signalling to wreck the troop train.
It was actually investigated by the police and found to be nonsense.
On one of my trips to the locality I shared some of my findings with the author of the "Sorrows of Quintinshill" ; Gordon Routledge. He confirmed that this particular rumour came directly from local sources - anecdotal?
There are many anecdotal accounts in the form of local folklore, letters and newspaper reports, which add greatly to the story and paint a vivid pictue of the horror of the crash. Most authors do have to rely on these accounts, but their veracity should be checked against other sources.
I suppose in one sense all history is anecdotal!
I hope this explains things?
Hi Jack. Thank you for your reply. I think that with care, there is a fruitful debate to be had on the subject of anecdotal evidence. My criticism is not personal, nor am I dismissing your research but if I can simply pick up a couple of points?
For me, history is accessible documentation. This can be analysed, compared to other sources, debated and discussed. In the hands of a skillful writer, anecdotes can and do enliven a history but should not be the basis. That must be the facts. That is why there is so much controversy in our subject, the Great War. Anecdote was accepted uncritically and by repetition became that dread thing, " common knowledge". I think a distinction needs to be drawn between history and personal memoirs. There is an uneasy amphibian which hovers between these two, ' popular history' where errors and misleading half truths are supposed to be acceptable because that is the only way to get people interested.
My other cavil is your reference to the existence of one of the rumours being verified because it was mentioned in the press. These same papers would have rushed to inform their readers of the snow shod Russian legions travelling to France by rail. They will have assured their readership of the miraculous appearances of Angels, Bowmen and sundry other phantoms at Mons and on the retreat. Anecdotes ought to be approached on the basis that the raconteur is not on oath but newspaper stories are written to a deadline and with a required length. The first casualty of war is truth and in our war in particular, the press inflicted most of the injuries.