A Modest Variorum Darwin (Primary vs. Secondary Sources)

As I sort through yet more questions raised by my current line of research, I glance at this sheet of paper for encouragement.

My mother, the Cornell professor and author who did decades of primary research herself, shared it with me and many of her students. I don’t know of a better illustration of why you should never completely trust a secondary source on historical events. Let alone a movie, or a novel… don’t get me started.

Okay, it’s a bit academic. It may not be obvious to everyone why the differences between the first entry and the last entry are important. Look at it this way: what is introduced over time are dramatizing motivations and actions that didn’t exist in the original. They make a good story, but they aren’t true. Which makes them bad history.

I’ve applied all my research librarian skills to locating another source for this, and failed. All I have is this aging three hole punched handout. So in placing it on the internet, I hope the internet will be just and cite its scholarly author: Mary Ellen Roach-Higgins, October 14, 1994.

 

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