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Old 08-20-2018, 02:02 PM   #61
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I’m still reading this book - not my favorite... The historical event is very interesting, but all the embellishments (thoughts and feelings) annoy me, and make me doubt the accuracy.
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Old 08-20-2018, 06:06 PM   #62
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Originally Posted by Bookpossum View Post

Fantasyfan, I actually found the book by Kitz by searching for books about the event, and then looking at previews of those available on Kobo. I could have got to it via the Bacon book, but it didn’t occur to me to think he might have nominated it, and I was so glad to be finished it, I didn’t go beyond the last page of the text.
Point taken, Bookpossum.
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Old 08-21-2018, 09:01 AM   #63
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I am more curious about your strength of feeling with this exploitation of history when you seemed much less offended (than I was anyway) with Kate Moore's exploitation of readers' emotions in The Radium Girls, suggesting (if I remember correctly) it was suitable for popular historical fiction. Doesn't the same excuse apply here?

I might also ask myself the same question in reverse: why do I not find this book as offensive as I found The Radium Girls? And I've been trying to figure that out. It may be that Bacon has simply been cleverer in his deceptions, you need to read outside his book to discover where he has been exaggerating or misrepresenting, whereas Moore was more upfront, with most(?) of her manipulations obvious in the text: upfront annoying rather than belatedly annoying. ... Or it may be that I think Bacon's misrepresentations are incidental, they don't really affect the history being presented (the Christmas tree thing is an emotional hook but has nothing to do with history - which is, of course, the problem; and the political situation between America and Canada is insignificant against the backdrop of the Great War and Halifax's role in that.) Whereas Moore annoyed me because her representation threatened to distort and obscure the history she should have been trying to illuminate.
I don't disagree that Moore's writing style was cheesy and that she was promoting a point of view. For me, there's a huge difference in degree between the two books, compounded by other issues. Bacon is pretty much the perfect storm of a bad book for me.

Most importantly, and what frustrated me most about Moore, was that she did her own original research; she undermined her narrative with all her descriptions of glances and so forth. Even for anyone who hasn't and doesn't want to read Kitz, the evidence of wholesale appropriation of Kitz's efforts is overwhelming. Entire chapters will have only a handful of footnotes, all but one or two to Kitz. It was also probably more obvious to me as I read one right after the other, but there was minimal rewriting. As Yogi said, déjà vu all over again. When I get a chance, I'll post an example.

Then, there were the errors I detected. The Willis & Bates one was egregious, but I only found that one because I found the entire anecdote preposterous on the face of it, which led me to look into it - so I'd disagree that Bacon was "cleverer in his deceptions." There were others, though, from major to relatively minor. VAD stands for Voluntary Aid Detachment, not Voluntary Aid Department. Bacon took a guess and couldn't be bothered to verify. The US Navy prison was not in New Hampshire (the building is still there and it's in Maine). I could go on. My take was that Bacon was making a lot of it up, in a manner that Moore was not.

I thought the book was grossly overwritten and the text inflated. One adjective wasn't used when three could be worked in. He'd go on and on about something that was a given. There was a whole lengthy paragraph explaining triage, for one example. That was unnecessary. As was his mnemonic for remembering the difference between starboard and port! How's that for condescension?

Barss has been mentioned and it's worse that not only was he irrelevant, it was offensive that the explosion was made about him rather than others more directly involved. It also seems that he was included because Bacon already knew about him - but at least it was presumably his own research for once.

Much of his Great War background was the stuff of cliche. I groaned at the mention of Wilfrid Owen. It doesn't get more tired than that. "'Dulce et Decorum Est' a line from the great Roman poet Horace..." As opposed to the minor Roman poet Horace? Why not just say Horace? My examples of overwriting and the irrelevant and the cliché-ridden go on for pages of my notes but I'll spare anyone still reading more examples.

I'll stop now.
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Old 08-21-2018, 12:27 PM   #64
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Thanks for taking the time to explain, issybird, I was curious.

The port and starboard thing did stand out, didn't it. And not in any good way. If I tried to use that I'd probably manage to forget something I've known since I was a kid.

The Portsmouth, Maine navy prison did not exist prior to 1908. The text in question is: "his privateering great-grandfather [...] while serving a few months in the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, prison, 104 years earlier." This text was relative to 1915, so 1810 ... which is a slight problem because the earlier description dated the imprisonment as 1813.

I expect you are right about the Willis & Bates error, but while it seems unlikely it is conceivable that the company had a factory in Canada too. (Just saying that I wouldn't hang him for it without further evidence.)

I can't think of any excuses for getting VAD wrong.

I find your list interesting because there were half-a-dozen items that I checked up on as I was reading, out of curiosity, and they all checked out okay.

This is certainly not a book I'd ever re-read, nor recommend to others, and I do wish we'd done the Kitz book instead, but it obviously didn't rub me the wrong way as much as it did for you and Bookpossum. Funny the different things that will irritate us.
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Old 08-21-2018, 01:46 PM   #65
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The US Navy prison was not in New Hampshire (the building is still there and it's in Maine).
Whether it was in New Hampshire or in Maine was in dispute until the Supreme Court settled the issue in 2001 (it's in Maine); what the prevailing opinion was when the man in question was imprisoned (or at the time of the explosion), I don't know, but should Bacon have gone off on a tangent to explain the controversy?
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Old 08-21-2018, 04:37 PM   #66
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The Portsmouth, Maine navy prison did not exist prior to 1908. The text in question is: "his privateering great-grandfather [...] while serving a few months in the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, prison, 104 years earlier." This text was relative to 1915, so 1810 ... which is a slight problem because the earlier description dated the imprisonment as 1813.
In fact, the navy prison is in Kittery, Maine, where the naval base is and where sailors were sent to prison even before the moldering building that's on the base now. The confusion results because the base is called the Portsmouth Navy Shipyard as it's located in Portsmouth harbor. (TBH, I was being a little facetious and invoking some local color with the Portsmouth reference, which isn't important.)


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Whether it was in New Hampshire or in Maine was in dispute until the Supreme Court settled the issue in 2001 (it's in Maine); what the prevailing opinion was when the man in question was imprisoned (or at the time of the explosion), I don't know, but should Bacon have gone off on a tangent to explain the controversy?
The boundary line between the states was in dispute only because New Hampshire kept disputing it. Winning the case would have changed the perceived boundary, but since it never did, it was in Maine.
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Old 08-21-2018, 07:24 PM   #67
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The boundary line between the states was in dispute only because New Hampshire kept disputing it. Winning the case would have changed the perceived boundary, but since it never did, it was in Maine.
What other element do you need to say something's in dispute, besides one party disputing it?
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Old 08-21-2018, 08:33 PM   #68
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What other element do you need to say something's in dispute, besides one party disputing it?
My point was that although New Hampshire kept disputing it, the naval base was always in Maine, as New Hampshire was never on the winning side. You seemed to be saying that until the Supreme Court ruled in 2001 there was no definitive boundary. Not so, as the shipyard workers who paid income tax to Maine would attest.
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Old 08-21-2018, 08:48 PM   #69
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(Snip)
I expect you are right about the Willis & Bates error, but while it seems unlikely it is conceivable that the company had a factory in Canada too. (Just saying that I wouldn't hang him for it without further evidence.)
(Snip)
This is certainly not a book I'd ever re-read, nor recommend to others, and I do wish we'd done the Kitz book instead, but it obviously didn't rub me the wrong way as much as it did for you and Bookpossum. Funny the different things that will irritate us.
As you have mentioned the Willis & Bates error, I thought this was worth revisiting. I can find no reference to their having a factory in Halifax Canada. But I did find a reference on whether or not they had anything to do with designing or making helmets:

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Alfred Bates, of Willis & Bates in Halifax, claimed to have come up with the basic design for a simple, inexpensively produced anti-shrapnel helmet using a process of metal stamping sheets of steel. By his own testimony he received a French 'Adrian' helmet from the War Office to assess how a British equivalent could be made. His firm made decorative metal lanterns and he was familiar with the stamping of metal sheets to produce lantern shapes. Indeed, one of his lanterns has a component which bears a remarkable likeness to the basic 'tin hat' shape. Bates coupled the simplicity of its manufacture with the use of specially strengthened steel manufactured nearby in Sheffield. No authoritative documentation can be found to back up Alfred Bates' claim outside of the newspaper reports, but the story that he was the 'inventor' of the 'tin hat' was current in many newspapers at the time of his death, including several from around the world. Today, John Leopold Brodie is credited with the invention 'mainly because of patents he took out on the helmet and the improvements he added to it'. Examination of these patents, however, reveals considerable emphasis on the design of the helmet lining. Scant attention is paid to the use of metal stamping in the manufacturing process, although at a later stage Brodie was probably responsible for replacing the original steel type with a stronger alloy of manganese steel.
(Dr Peter Liddle: Britain and a Widening War, 1915-1916: From Gallipoli to the Somme)

So not only was the company in Halifax in Yorkshire rather than in Halifax Nova Scotia, but its involvement with the manufacture of helmets is at least in question. I would have thought that Liddle would say that the firm made the helmets if this were the case, but the only point being raised is that of design.

While this is a minor aside in the whole book, such sloppy research has to call into serious question the entire work.
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Old 08-21-2018, 08:50 PM   #70
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My point was that although New Hampshire kept disputing it, the naval base was always in Maine, as New Hampshire was never on the winning side. You seemed to be saying that until the Supreme Court ruled in 2001 there was no definitive boundary. Not so, as the shipyard workers who paid income tax to Maine would attest.
I'm just saying that it took till 2001 for it to be settled, so it was a long-running dispute, and since the Supreme Court took the case, they must have thought it was a question that needed to be decided definitively, not dismissing NH's challenge out of hand. I would guess that any New Hampshire sources from the early 1800s and/or the early 1900s that Bacon used might well have considered the prison to be in their state.
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Old 08-21-2018, 10:12 PM   #71
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In fact, the navy prison is in Kittery, Maine, where the naval base is and where sailors were sent to prison even before the moldering building that's on the base now. The confusion results because the base is called the Portsmouth Navy Shipyard as it's located in Portsmouth harbor. (TBH, I was being a little facetious and invoking some local color with the Portsmouth reference, which isn't important.) [...]
Sorry, I wasn't clear. My point was that in 1811* this location, in Kittery, Maine, was Fort Sullivan and I see no reference to Fort Sullivan being used as a prison. I don't know where the prison was back then, but the little I read seems to suggest it was unlikely Fort Sullivan was used as a prison back then because it was part of the Portsmouth defences.

(* My previous said 1810, my maths is as bad as Bacon's )

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[...] While this is a minor aside in the whole book, such sloppy research has to call into serious question the entire work.
I definitely agree with the sentiment, I'm just wary as to what I hang it off. My pick is the Christmas tree, although I don't think the tree was sloppy, I think it was a deliberate misrepresentation.
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Old 08-21-2018, 11:06 PM   #72
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I agree: the wording clearly implies that the tree had been sent every year from 1918 onwards.

There are so many examples of this sort of thing, perhaps trivial in themselves, that they, plus all the stuff about Barss because that was his real interest, plus the wholesale use of the research done and written up by Janet Kitz, all add up to a very bad book that purports to be history.

You are quite right gmw - we certainly should have read the Kitz instead.
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Old 08-22-2018, 11:18 AM   #73
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I've said I'd offer up passages from the two books for comparison and here they are. I'm not claiming this is the closest match, but it's one that particularly irked me, witness changing the word "gifts" to "presents" in the middle of a sentence that was otherwise largely lifted.

From Bacon:

Quote:
But on Monday, December 17, 1917—the day of the mass burial, eleven days after the explosion, and eight days before Christmas—a piece appeared on the front page of Halifax’s Daily Echo suggesting that the surviving children should be given some joy this Christmas.

The children’s section of the paper, called the “Sunshine Club,” started a fund for children in hospitals and institutions to give them “the best Christmas they ever had.” Cousin Peggy, editor of the Sunshine Club, wrote of one “wee maiden” who had taken the ice cream and presents from her birthday party to the Children’s Hospital. In the same spirit, Cousin Peggy invited her young readers to donate their toys or money so the less fortunate could enjoy a bit of the Christmas spirit.
From Kitz:

Quote:
Nonetheless, on Monday, December 17, the first appeal appeared on the front page of The Daily Echo (Halifax). It suggested that children who had suffered should be given some joy at Christmas. The children’s section of the newspaper, The Sunshine Club, was inaugurating a fund for the sick children in hospitals or in institutions, to give them “the best Christmas they ever had.” Cousin Peggy, editor of The Sunshine Club, told one tale of kindness. One “wee maiden,” she wrote, had given up her birthday celebration and had taken the ice cream and the gifts to the Children’s Hospital. Cousin Peggy invited all boys and girls, especially those in rural areas who had not had the chance to help, to send toys or money, to share their Christmas with the less fortunate.
Moreover, four of the five footnotes for the entire Christmas chapter in Halifax reference Shattered City and in this manner: pp. 113-14, pp. 115-16, pp. 116-18 and pp. 117-118! To me, this says Bacon essentially sat down and transcribed the entire chapter, merely tweaking the language and not so very much at that as shown above. What has Bacon added? A repetition of significant dates (because we'd have forgotten that the explosion took place on the 6th otherwise) and a reminder that December 17 is eight days before Christmas.

The fifth and last footnote for the chapter, I doubt anyone will be surprised to learn, is to Barss.

All of the parts of Halifax that rely on Kitz as their source read like that.
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Old 08-22-2018, 12:08 PM   #74
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Moreover, four of the five footnotes for the entire Christmas chapter in Halifax reference Shattered City and in this manner: pp. 113-14, pp. 115-16, pp. 116-18 and pp. 117-118! To me, this says Bacon essentially sat down and transcribed the entire chapter, merely tweaking the language and not so very much at that as shown above. What has Bacon added? A repetition of significant dates (because we'd have forgotten that the explosion took place on the 6th otherwise) and a reminder that December 17 is eight days before Christmas.

The fifth and last footnote for the chapter, I doubt anyone will be surprised to learn, is to Barss.

All of the parts of Halifax that rely on Kitz as their source read like that.

If I saw work like this from one of my students, they would be failing my class and headed to honor court for plagiarism.
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Old 08-22-2018, 07:11 PM   #75
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Yes indeed. Somehow I don’t think that Janet Kitz would have agreed to such wholesale use of her work, if/when Bacon went to see her.
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Philosophy James, William: Great Men, Great Thoughts, and the Environment, v1, 4 August 2009 Patricia Kindle Books 0 08-03-2009 09:48 PM


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