For my latest batch of work on James, I’m reviewing and cataloging all the research I’ve done for this project over the past five years. While I’ve had the opportunity to do some work with primary sources — and expect to do much, much more — most of my research has involved sources that are at least one generation removed from any original, contemporary documentation of the facts.
When I put all my notes from these secondary sources side by side by side, I’m struck by the variations in the facts, by how differently they portray even seemingly simple, objective truths. My favorite example is the frequent reference to a machine that weighed 350 pounds, or maybe 500. Or perhaps it was 300. Could’ve been 650, though. Unless it was 315.
I could just take an average, I suppose, and claim that this piece of equipment weighed 423 pounds. But I figure that somewhere in some collection of old papers resides the truth (and maybe even an explanation for the many variations in how that truth has been presented). My job is to find that fact — and then, for the rest of the manuscript, repeat the process dozens of times over. Scores, even.
You are such a teaser. Now I’m left wondering what kind of machine weighs 350, 500, 650 or 423 pounds…washing machine, dryer, printing machine…
Good luck with the research. I applaud you on your efforts to get all the facts straight. You really take pride in your work…and it shows.
The secondary challenge, of which you’re no doubt well aware, is deciding when it *matters* to get the exact weight of the machine right, and when you’re safe saying “The machine weighed hundreds of pounds” and moving on. It’s a challenge that academic historians face all the time.
Sounds like an ole’ fish tale to me. It was at least 350… um… I mean, 423 pounds. And I had to walk to school uphill both ways through the snow in bare feet.
Or maybe it’s just whether the machine was empty or full. For home use or industrial. American or Japanese. :)