Tea at Trianon Forum
Always be polite. Courtesy is required of you.
Tea with the Queen
Latest topics
» Jews in Royal France
Fri Mar 23, 2018 10:49 pm by princess garnet

» Third War of Independence
Thu Feb 22, 2018 11:21 pm by princess garnet

» House of Bernadotte Queens
Thu Feb 22, 2018 12:08 am by princess garnet

» Seek advice
Thu Feb 08, 2018 1:45 am by Elena

» Mary Cassatt
Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:18 am by otto

» Do you want a cup of Afternoon tea?
Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:33 pm by otto

» Tea bag vs Loose leaf tea?
Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:27 pm by otto

» Greet teaVS Black tea
Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:22 pm by otto

» Tsar Nicholas I
Thu Aug 03, 2017 11:02 pm by princess garnet

Who is online?
In total there are 3 users online :: 0 Registered, 0 Hidden and 3 Guests


[ View the whole list ]

Most users ever online was 70 on Mon Jul 27, 2015 8:35 pm
Social bookmarking

Social bookmarking digg  Social bookmarking delicious  Social bookmarking reddit  Social bookmarking stumbleupon  Social bookmarking slashdot  Social bookmarking yahoo  Social bookmarking google  Social bookmarking blogmarks  Social bookmarking live      

Bookmark and share the address of Tea at Trianon Forum on your social bookmarking website

Banner art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy.

Alison Weir and Social Media

Go down

Alison Weir and Social Media

Post  Bunnies on Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:30 pm

I'm not sure if this is really the proper category for this post but I couldn't find a general history board and Alison Weir writes a lot about English Kings and Queens so I'm plopping myself in here. Any mod can feel free to move this post to a more suitable category if I've committed some grievous blunder.

Anyway, I found an interesting series of videos by Alison Weir and she brings up a few points that I think would be worth discussing. It's four videos, all around one minute, so please don't think I'm slamming us with some grandiose project. In these videos, Alison Weir offers her opinion on the recent surge of interest in Anne Boleyn on the Internet. Now, although she focuses on one individual, her criticism could easily be shifted to any historical figure who fosters an active discussion community around their person - this site might itself serve as an example of Marie-Antoinette's following.


For myself, I’d agree with her first few contentions: the media powerfully shapes the popular perception of historical events, and there is certainly a disconnect between film and fact that isn’t always recognized.

However, I don’t quite know if internet discussions are proliferating these misconceptions. To use Anne Boleyn, who is again Weir’s vehicle for the discussion, whenever I’ve lingered on her discussion boards I see a great deal of criticism towards the popular views, deconstructing fictional portrayals, I see theories are put forward and debunked using primary sources or the works of respected historians, etc. Perhaps I just lurk on quality sites - the Anne Boleyn Files is one of my favorite stomping grounds - but I truly don’t see much enamored fawning. As for Weir’s contention that Boleyn has been contorted unjustly into a feminist icon, when feminist scholar Susan Bordo tried to propose an analysis of Anne Boleyn’s feminism on her blog she was promptly derided as being anachronistic - attempts made even by the most respected of contributors do not bear fruit. To use Marie-Antoinette, who is probably the figure who has the most relevance to this particular community, I don't think Tea at Trianon or any of its rivals are the source of too many misconceptions. Indeed, the current dominant source for misunderstandings as to Antoinette's character are is probably Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, which generally finds itself deconstructed.

In other words, I think she’s wrong to be so dismissive. She seems to have an attitude that any discussion on Social Media is inherently superficial, which isn't true in the first place. She also seems to believe that historians are Gods of Objectivity who don't get emotionally invested in the people they study. This is patently false, and I'm actually more weary of historian (like Weir, apparently) who believe themselves pillars of objectivity. People discussing people can't be absolutely objective, so the best thing to do is to be honest about your preconceived notions and do your best not to allow them to interfere with your analysis - and it has been done. You cannot tell me that Ron Chernow does not admire George Washington, that Eric Ives did not respect Anne Boleyn, or that Antonia Fraser does sympathize with Marie-Antoinette; this doesn't necessarily undercut their research. If emotional investment alone was our criteria for dismissing an historian we would have no historians at all.

But there is a danger of a cult, mob-mentality - and perhaps, being somewhat active in the alleged cults (although I've been less-than-active here over the past few months; sorry...), I wouldn’t recognize them as such. But in my view, a group of people with an educated interest in something coming together can’t be harmful to the field; it will make the field richer. In one of the videos, Alison Weir says that she had “pet theories” that she feared would have been watered had she gotten involved in social media as a young girl, but I think it more likely that she would have had her views debunked if they did not stand to scrutiny. And isn't that truly what matters - since history is a social science, in some ways what matters more is how you argue your case than what your case is. Indeed, one of my private concerns about my activity among groups like this is that during my research, sometimes I'll concoct a theory and want to present it for scrutiny, but since it is in its fetal stages I fear it will be outright dismissed before it can grow legs. There's a certain degree of independent thought necessary in order to break ground as an historian (you can't merely cite the works of others; we can't all be David Andress) and I worry sometimes that I use the analysis of those more educated than myself as a crutch, which in turn can stunt my analytical growth. But this isn't the flaw Weir highlights - instead of having theories cut down before they can even be properly analyzed, she fears that the most absurd of speculation will be given credit, which isn't something that I believe generally holds true.

And that said, the individuals blogging or lingering on discussion forums don’t seem to be the guilty parties when it comes to “not going any deeper” than the pretty dresses. Like, you hear these complaints all the time - by historians like Alison Weir, and other less-popular personalities - that the internet is watering down history, and that people’s understanding of it is becoming fickle and that it’s all Social Media’s Fault!…But I’d genuinely like to see a source for this. Where are all the vapid fanboys and fangirls investing hours of their week to discuss their favorite historical figure who somehow don’t know anything about them? Again, perhaps I’m just in the wrong niches, but I generally see people exchanging book recommendations, offering analysis, throwing in their criticism, etc. I can’t help but wonder if there is a sense of “Oh, Social Media is for Young People and Young People Can’t Do Anything Seriously so if they’re on the internet talking about a historical figure they must be doing it Wrong!”

I mean, yes, I'd agree that discussing things online is not substitute for actual research. But does anyone really think it is?

All in all, it just seems to me that Alison Weir can’t comprehend teenage girls being interested in Anne Boleyn beyond her fancy clothes on the Tudors and so would like to dismiss their interest. So she's effectively complaining that Too Many Young People are getting involved in history. And this is a bunch of baloney. Okay, yes, maybe some of them don't do any research beyond Anne Boleyn beyond her depiction in The Tudors --- but you know what? As historically inaccurate as the Tudors is, it still depicts how Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church to divorce Katherine of Aragon. So even the girl with the most superficial interest in Anne Boleyn now knows about the kickoff of the English Reformation, even if it's somewhat distorted.

But we have to understand, it's not that this hypothetical girl is watching The Tudors instead of reading the academic journals. No, no, no - she's watching The Tudors instead of NOTHING AT ALL. And dang it, I'd rather people have a superficial view of their history than no view. At least the girl who adores Anne Boleyn's fancy dresses knows who Anne Boleyn is and maybe she'll do some more research -- why do we immediately assume that the girl who likes fashion is incapable of tackling the academic end of her interests?

Now, that's my view. But what're all of yours?

Posts : 199
Join date : 2012-12-24
Age : 25

View user profile http://bunniesandbeheadings.tumblr.com

Back to top Go down

Re: Alison Weir and Social Media

Post  May on Thu Oct 10, 2013 11:31 pm

Great points, Bunnies.  I agree that there actually seems to be alot of serious discussion of historical figures on the web. The more superficial sites  that I've seen, deal more with current royals, rather than figures of the past.

Posts : 488
Join date : 2011-10-24
Location : United States

View user profile http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com

Back to top Go down

Re: Alison Weir and Social Media

Post  Elena on Fri Oct 11, 2013 6:34 pm

Thanks for this great analysis, Bunnies. I have seen the same disdain for social media applied to historical novelists. I have learned a great deal from serious researchers on the internet. Alison needs to get involved and have a forum.queen 

Je pardonne à tous mes ennemis le mal qu’ils m’ont fait.

Posts : 1165
Join date : 2011-10-18
Location : East of the Sun, West of the Moon

View user profile http://www.emvidal.com/

Back to top Go down

Re: Alison Weir and Social Media

Post  Bunnies on Sat Oct 19, 2013 10:25 pm

More and more novelists and historians alike are starting forums to be more in-tune with their readership. I checked Weir's website and apparently she hasn't done so. Amazing, isn't it, how someone can have such a strong opinion on the debasement of social media but apparently have no involvement with it. Maybe she's trying to justify her refusal to reach out? Or maybe I'm reading too much into this. I do that.

But in speaking of historical novelists, Elena, you're right: there is a disdain displayed to them, occasionally as a simple ad hominum to debunk someone's argument in a debate. Ie: "You don't know anything about Anne Boleyn, you just read Philippa Gregory!" Compartmentalizing your opposition by making them frivolous is the simplest way to dismiss them and so novelists find themselves being used as a tool of slander.

Hooey. But back to historical novelists as a whole - oh, well, it's a complicated issue, really. I love historical novels, it's my favorite genre, and I'd be straight-up lying to you if I said that I wasn't introduced to history by some yarns of historical fiction. Novels water unwieldy history down into a narrative - narratives are engaging, and they can be educational insofar as they encourage thought and give you something to sink your teeth into. They use Big Names like George Washington or Aaron Burr as vehicles to make complicated ideas less abstract, crafting lofty ideology into an almost-tangible personification to be judged in Real Terms.

But then you get something of a feedback loop. That is, an author will take an historical event and give it a moral - and the moral will inevitably mean something to the author. I was speaking to a friend and she came up with a good example of this: the "Just World Fallacy" where if something bad happens to someone, there's some sort of celestial explanation. That is, it reinforces the 'winners write history' idea-- in Philippa Gregory, Anne Boleyn is beheaded because she Deserved It, in every American History novel outside of Gore Vidal, Aaron Burr becomes a destitute drunk because he Deserved It, the Confederacy lost the Civil War because it Deserved It, and so on and so forth. Now, some might be able to argue that Boleyn, Burr, and the Confederacy really did Deserve It but that's really neither here nor there -- that doesn't explain why they were defeated, unless we seriously subscribe to Manifest Destiny. That's just turning history into a moral lesson which, to some extent, is valid, but a problem comes about when that's the only lesson. And then people are used to those lessons, they shape their understanding of events to fit those lessons, they educate everyone else those lessons, those lessons become the only way to interpret events—even if the events themselves bear other more accurate, more meaningful interpretations.

I mean, economics is probably the catalyst of most historical debacles, and is the undercurrent of the majority of conflicts between political giants. But it's not a particularly interesting subject, it's hard to give a face, so it;s not something your average historical novel would discuss...

...and nor should it, really, because a novel is meant to entertain. See, this is where the problem comes about and why I get all hazy. On one hand, I don't think historical novels are the best methods of learning history because of the flaws I alluded to. On the other hand, it's sort of like criticizing a quarterback for being a poor wide-receiver -- teaching isn't inherently what novels are supposed to do, so isn't it a moot point to criticize them for occasionally failing to do a job beyond their designation? The problem isn't so much with novelists as with their readerbase.

But the plot twist, and what Alison Weir misses, is that this is not a new phenomenon. The average Victorian lifted his or her history from their pop novels. The average Elizabethean certainly just lifted their history from Shakespeare. This isn't a sign of the corruption of our youth, of how Facebook is turning children into vapid airheads unable to appreciate the true complexities of history...it's just a problem that's always been and always will be.

Posts : 199
Join date : 2012-12-24
Age : 25

View user profile http://bunniesandbeheadings.tumblr.com

Back to top Go down

Re: Alison Weir and Social Media

Post  Mata Hari on Sat Oct 19, 2013 10:47 pm

Good points! And let us remember that Alison Weir writes historical novels herself!Cool  Oh, well, there are other wonderful new historians such as Leanda de Lisle who do make use of social media! Wink 

Because I really did not spy, it is terrible that I cannot defend myself.
Mata Hari

Posts : 201
Join date : 2011-10-20
Location : Paris

View user profile http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mata_Hari

Back to top Go down

Re: Alison Weir and Social Media

Post  Sponsored content

Sponsored content

Back to top Go down

Back to top

- Similar topics

Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum