Local history goes wrong

I venerate local historians. They collect every scrap of information they can about a subject before applying one of two methodologies to telling the story.

The first method weaves a narrative from all that was learned while entering into a casual discussion with the reader about what sources said what and how trustworthy they might be. This is the good stuff.

The second type weaves the narrative without giving the reader any transparency into the author's use of and judgements about sources. This is the bad stuff.

Robert Collins is a local (Kansas) historian and his General James G. Blunt: Tarnished Glory embodies the weakest side of local history. There's a biblio and no notes. The biblio is scary, as it includes newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, and other partisan ephemera.

You have no way of knowing what the hell the author is doing or why. I'm not going to finish the book and I'd be a fool to quote from it. Drew Wagenhoffer tells me Collins repeated the mistake in his new Jim Lane biography. All that work to produce two curiosities.

Local historians, when you publish for an national readership let the reader peek behind the curtain. It's as much for your good as for ours.