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 Primary sources

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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Primary sources   Wed Jun 15, 2016 4:02 pm

I've been doing some research for an article and wanted to check a paragraph from the testimony of Trooper Samuel Jones, NMR.
Rather than dig out my copy of the original I thought I'd save time and check to see if it had been posted on-line.
I found it quite easily, reproduced many times, on a number of different sites.

I thought I'd better check the wording of the one I was looking at against a couple of others. In the end I found SEVENTEEN different versions of just the ONE paragraph of 58 words I was looking for. What's more, when I dug out my copy of the original, I found that not one of the 17 was correct.

As you all know, slight nuances in wording can lead to very different interpretations of events and in just this one paragraph the potential of tripping up casual readers, never mind serious researchers, was immense and the opportunities to lead interested readers astray (deliberately or otherwise) enormous.

Perhaps there's a parallel lesson to be learnt here regarding the quotations and statistics being bandied about by politicians and others over the EU debate in the UK. Don't believe all you read or are told.

In the meantime, this was a salutary reminder for me never to trust the internet and not to be lazy. For any of you doing any research of your own, always check the original primary source.
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Wed Jun 15, 2016 10:49 pm

No, I'm not seriously asking you!
Perhaps, it's best not to discuss the in and out issues here - people will vote the way they think is best for the country - I'd rather go with their gut reaction as much better than all the politicians' hype.
I really just wanted to register my surprise that despite the proliferation of sites re the AZW not one could quote a testimony correctly.
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John

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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Wed Jun 15, 2016 11:39 pm

Starts off okay, then rapidly goes off topic. Question
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Thu Jun 16, 2016 5:05 pm

Interestingly enough I've just done the same exercise with Drummer Sweeney's letter. After six incorrect on-line versions I found an accurate one. The misquotations were serious - deliberately confusing the two drummers with the five little boys of the band.
But unless you have a copy of the original how would the unwary know this?
No wonder so much rubbish is written about the AZW.
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Ulundi

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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Sat Jun 18, 2016 12:59 am

What are the protocols to justify evidence as being accepted as primary source. Who says its primary source.?
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24th

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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Sun Jun 19, 2016 10:18 am

Good question? I don't know.
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Sun Jun 19, 2016 4:46 pm

The dictionary definition is:
Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience.

In a nutshell they are first hand accounts. There is of course no guarantee that a Primary source is correct. Most historians and researchers want to corroborate any source. If a a prime source is mentioned for instance in two or more accounts it can be taken as a pretty solid source. As to who verifies/certifies a prime source, that is a matter that historians would do as a result of extensive exploration.

Second hand quotations or descriptions, or heresay, could be regarded as prime source if they are verified/confirmed by independent correlation.

A good example for you is the Pen Symonds account. He interviewed the survivors and wrote an account based on those interviews in late January. But is it a Prime Source or Heresay?

Hope that helps Ulundi
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Kenny



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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Sun Jun 19, 2016 6:30 pm

Remember that the junior ranks will not always understand the 'big picture' nor can be fully appreciative of the commanders intentions. Also soldiers who had limited literacy skills did have help of others when writing home - as the letters survive so the same tale can be repeated by more than one veteran which may give the story more credence. Yet, many authors use extracts from these stories to build up their narratives and add authenticity.
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rusteze

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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Sun Jun 19, 2016 7:47 pm

Frank has put his finger on it. A primary source is a first hand account. But it does not automatically make that account correct just because it comes from a primary source. The individual may be mistaken, they may have not seen the wider picture, they may simply be lying. Crealock is an obvious example of a primary source that is not wholly credible.

Steve
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barry

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PostSubject: Smith Dorrian's testimonies   Mon Jun 20, 2016 11:12 am

Hi all,

Interesting.
How would SD's various versions rate against this criteria?

regards

barry
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Chard1879

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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Mon Jun 20, 2016 11:42 am

Good point Barry! Would all of his accounts be primary? Does evidence become primary because it was recorded by someone who was there!
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Ray63

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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Mon Jun 20, 2016 11:57 am

"Primary sources are the first hand evidence left behind by participants or observers at the time of events.

"Primary sources originate in the time period that historians are studying.  They vary a great deal. They may include personal memoirs, government documents, transcripts of legal proceedings, oral histories and traditions, archaeological and biological evidence, and visual sources like paintings and photographs.

Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later. Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of whether they are available in original format, in microfilm/microfiche, in digital format, or in published format.


Primary Secondary
Definitions Primary Sources are the first hand evidence left behind by participants or observers at the time of events. Secondary Sources are materials that digest, analyze, evaluate and interpret information contained within primary sources or other secondary sources.

Examples
Autobiographies, memoirs, diaries, emails, oral histories
Letters, correspondences, eyewitnesses
First-hand newspaper and magazine accounts of events
Legal cases, treaties
Statistics, surveys, opinion polls, scientific data, transcripts
Records of organizations and government agencies
Original works of literature, art or music
Cartoons, postcards, posters
Map, photographs, films
Objects and artifacts that reflect the time period in which they were created
Books, such as biographies (not an autobiography), textbooks, Encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks
Articles, such as literature reviews, commentaries, research articles in all subject disciplines
Criticism of works of literature, art and music
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Ulundi

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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Tue Jun 21, 2016 10:07 am

Taking SDs various accounts into consideration are we saying they are all primary source.
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rusteze

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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Tue Jun 21, 2016 12:44 pm

Yes. SD is a primary source, doesn't matter how many accounts he produced he remains a primary source. But of course none of his accounts are necessarily correct.

Steve
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John

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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Wed Jun 22, 2016 10:43 pm

In that case it makes a mockery of the whole primary source inputs into past discussions. SD published two accounts of his actions at Isandlwana one in the COE and one to his father. So which account is correct?
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Fri Jun 24, 2016 12:54 pm

All
Ray63 is quite right. A primary source is not just a first-hand or eye-witness account - it is also prima facie evidence like Pulleine's 8.05 message or the Durnford Papers or the Blue Books.

John
Of course it doesn't make a mockery of it. S-D in fact left 5 accounts, not 2, dated:
27.1.1879
25-31.1.1879
7.3.1879
1925
undated but published 1939
All are 'correct' but some may be affected by memory loss in old-age, or contemporary incorrect sequencing through confusion, simultaneity of events or shock, or in informal docs the leaving out of what might be considered essential info by a CoI..
It's the historian's job to establish order out of chaos by corroborating against others' accounts or establishing factors which may have affected the writing.
For example, this morning we've had astonishing news re the referendum in the UK. Try getting in the right order and establish times for:
the Newcastle Result
Sturgeon's announcement
the Durham Result
Cameron's announcement of his future resignation
the Basildon Result
the Flintshire Result
the vote of no confidence in Corbyn
the Cornwall Result
Donald Tusk's statement
Boris's press conference
Merkel's statement
And that was just this morning!!!!! And you are not in your dotage!!!! Or suffering from PTS or shock!!!

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rusteze

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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Fri Jun 24, 2016 3:27 pm

Good afternoon Julian. While I fully agree with the main thrust of your comments, I have to pick up on what you say about the SD accounts all being "correct" yet, because of other factors, some are incorrect! I don't think you can have it both ways.

When we talk about a primary "source" I take it to mean the author and not the document. Hence SD remains a primary source whatever his various versions of events might say.

In that vein, the Blue Books contain a mixture of primary sources, commentary and discussion. To that extent I would not regard them as an entirely primary source for the actual events in the AZW, but rather an official record of parliamentary documents and decision making.

What do you think?

Steve
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Julian Whybra



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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Fri Jun 24, 2016 6:30 pm

rusteze
S-D's accounts are still primary sources even though they are incorrect or deviate from the accepted line. The fact that they might contain errors does not eradicate their 'primary-sourced-ness' or authenticity.
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rusteze

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PostSubject: Re: Primary sources   Fri Jun 24, 2016 8:08 pm

Thanks, we agree.

Steve
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