Fine Line Between History and Alternate History

Discussion in 'Alternate History Books and Media' started by John Mortimer, Jul 30, 2018.

  1. John Mortimer Active Member

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    All the books at the top of the list were free. Some of the factors that can potentially determine what's at the top of the list are most downloaded, most stars, and relevance to the search term "history." The list also seemed to favor newer books over older books, or at least books with covers tend to be higher on the list. Books over 90 years old in the public domain almost never have covers. Six years ago, the latter were pretty much the only free books available.

    As for accuracy, what's most relevant is frequency of downloads and highest rated reviews. Therefore, Newport Tower Unsettled History being high on the very long list would suggest that at least a significant portion of the population found the book persuasive. Lastly, there's the question of what gets classified as fiction and what gets classified as non-fiction. Categorizing books incorrectly alienates readers. If you worked for Barnes & Nobles or Amazon, how would you classify the books discussed ITT? Would you put them in the fiction or non-fiction sections?
     
  2. Catsmate Well-Known Member

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    1. No, that is utter rubbish. The accuracy of a work is utterly unrelated to it's popularity or "rating" on an unreviewed website.
    2. What they are, pseudo-science.
     
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  3. John Mortimer Active Member

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    For whatever reason, the two major book sellers in the U.S decided to classify the aforementioned books as some of the most relevant to the search term "history." If not true, wouldn't this alienate their customers?
     
  4. LSCatilina Feudal Leftist Extraordinaire

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    Publishers and editor tells them "looks this is History", and they put it there because they're not going to check it, not only because they have no authority to do so (no one really does, the only thing that might be close enough is peer-review) but because their job is to sell the books?ยต
    If Mein Kampf had the slightest chance being a political best-seller nowadays, they'll put in "Politics" and that would be the end of it.

    Not that I think crusading away against this kind of pseudo-history should be done : they generally crumble under the weight of their own mediocrity as long you don't feed their authors with attention.
     
  5. catalfalque Quebecois

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    I find it peculiar there is this big argument about a building built in the 17th century? America was a literate society so surely there are letters, grants, official documents etc to say who built the thing, when and why?
     
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  6. wilcoxchar The Craft Beer and Coffee Guy

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    Just because something is popular or cheap doesn't make it good, reliable, or accurate. While enjoying pseudohistory and fringe theories purely as entertainment is fine, if you're looking for more rigorous and real history books, I would suggest digging a little deeper in looking at peer reviews from historians on alleged non-fiction books before buying them.
     
  7. LSCatilina Feudal Leftist Extraordinaire

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    Believe me, you don't ever want to get into pseudo-history about Catharism and Lengadocian castles : there's a ton of sources and evidences, thoroughly ignored and dismissed in favour of Aliens/Holy Grail/Satan/Excalibur/Christ/choose-your-own-lunacy.
     
  8. drewmc2001 Watching the sun set over the Texas Gulf Coast

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    B&N and Amazon don't curate the books that are sold on their stores. Worse, there's no relevant data to be gleaned from a book that is being offered for free. There are lots of folks who search for free content on Amazon. Guess what, many of them never read those free books. Why should they? For many, they're impulse downloads. That's the reason Newport Tower is ranked at all on Amazon.

    Sometimes (and I'm sure there are exceptions) books, like people can be known by the company they keep. On Amazon, this book is most frequently downloaded by folks researching other fringe ideas related to early discovery myths and Templars in America stuff. From what I can see, based on the reviews of the book, it was popular with folks seeking out fantastical alternatives to what we consider mainstream history.

    While I have on occasion found a good free book on Amazon, by and large when I have downloaded one, I have got what I paid for. IMO, I think the same could be said about Lynn Bryant's contribution to the Amazon free library. Just my $0.02
     
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  9. John Mortimer Active Member

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    That was one of the arguments Brant made. The lack of historical evidence was used as an argument against the Arnoldian hypothesis.
     
  10. LSCatilina Feudal Leftist Extraordinaire

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    There is a great principle about this : absence of proof doesn't mean proof of the absence. Note that historical sources aren't limited to litterary sources but as well parahistorical disciplines (such as comparing styles, material composition, etc.)
    Even in a situation where we lack a textual sources, we have all the other at disposal that converge to an accepted hypothesis : on the other hand we have a thesis that mostly base itself on the absence of proof.

    It happens regularily with people having no clue about how historical study and sourcing works : recently, someone claimed that a wall found in Alsace MUST have been made by Carthaginian troops of Hannibal because it definitely looked like Punic craftsmanship, and no text is found that describe this wall. Even if it's pretty obvious it is medieval and that nobody would waste time describing it
     
  11. John Mortimer Active Member

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    What's not clear is if Brant addressed the strongest arguments in favor of the Arnoldian hypothesis. Which carbon dating studies are more authoritative is not clear. The one's that support the Arnoldian thesis or the one's that refute the Arnoldian thesis? Other than carbon dating, the only thing the Arnoldian thesis has going for it is that local residents believe Benedict Arnold built the wind mill.

    Assuming Brant was fair to her opponents, there seems to be insufficient evidence to conclusively say Benedict Arnold built the entire Newport structure, as opposed to just adding a windmill. Likewise, there's insufficient evidence to conclude the Newport tower is pre-Columbian. Unless Brant left out left out key evidence, or misrepresented carbon dating studies, the question of who built the Newport Tower remains unanswered.

    Now, the thesis is extraordinary: the Newport Tower is pre-Columbian. The conclusion on the other hand is a bit more modest: results inconclusive. Which is why a call for a more well funded rigorous excavation is made. Only then can the mystery of The Newport Tower be solved.
     
  12. Barry Bull Donor

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    For books, research and university libraries. Bookstores at university also carry more academic books. For peer-reviewed journal articles, JSTOR and other academic journal database which often required subscriptions.

    Most academic history books are difficult to read and understand for people not educated in that particular areas and possessing the knowledge to understand the books. Those books would not sell well to general public and bookstores that cater to general public like Barnes & Nobles seldom stock many of these books.
     
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  13. wilcoxchar The Craft Beer and Coffee Guy

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    Publishers and distributors above all want to make money. In addition, controversy sells and genres are broad, ill-defined, and blurry, especially in fiction, and casual readers don't consider anything written in a scholarly non-traditional-narrative style as "fiction". So of course publishers are going to call pseudo-history "history" and "non-fiction" because that is the best place to put it where it will stir up the most controversy among the layman and get them to spend money on the books.
     
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  14. John Mortimer Active Member

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    One of the things that's positive about books like Newport Tower Unsettled History is their effect on tourism. After reading the book, now there's a reason to go to Rhode Island. The only other media I can think of which put the spotlight on Rhode Island are Family Guy and Me, Myself & Irene. Are there any others?

    The Newport Tower is a concrete location which most people probably never heard of until reading Newport Tower Unsettled History. A romantic controversy is much enticing than simply stating facts. If everyone believed The Newport Tower was just an example of typical 17th century English architecture, then no one would even notice it.

    Furthermore, the aforementioned movie and tv show lack concrete locations that tourists would want to visit. Once a tourist is there, they might stumble upon a location they recognize. Yet, there aren't any specific buildings which would provide impetus to go there in the first place. Therefore, Newport Tower Unsettled History has the power to stimulate more tourism in Rhode Island than any other published work in existence.
     
  15. Barry Bull Donor

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    Which is not the purpose of historical research. Also, Brant is an economist by training, her competence on handling the various historical evidence and carbon dating data remains in doubt.
     
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  16. wilcoxchar The Craft Beer and Coffee Guy

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    And The Da Vinci Code, National Treasure, and the Assassin's Creed franchise all were popular and probably helped tourism for the places they were set. But they all managed to do it by presenting an exciting secret history story without misleading people by portraying themselves as non-fiction.
     
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  17. Barry Bull Donor

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    While these popular entertainment products never portrayed themselves as history, the number of people that treat films like "300" as authentic is depressingly high. The "Clean Wehrmacht" myth also remain depressingly common thanks popular history works. Put it bluntly, most of the general public just do not better and poorly educated in history. Whether the public care to learn more is open to debate.
     
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  18. John Mortimer Active Member

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    Assassin's Creed is supposed to be non-fiction? Pretty sure National Treasure is supposed to be more for entertainment than historical facts as well.
     
  19. Barry Bull Donor

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    @wilcoxchar means that the franchises mentioned never present themselves anything more than fiction, unlike the books (which pretend to be serious work on history) you mentioned in your opening posts.
     
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