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The Nature of a Chess Historian

batgirl
Jul 17, 2013, 2:36 PM 8
Long ago I had come across an article by Bob Meadley, recipient of the 2002 Purdy Medal, An Australian chess award for outstanding contribution as a player or journalist. In this article (which Meadley expressly states is not copyrighted), the author explains how the late Australian chess historian, John van Manen, (recipient of the 1988 Purdy Medal) catgorized chess historians:

1.Professional Historians (including archivists, historical researchers,
       archaeologists):
      Schooled from an early age in historical research.
      Most likely to find original sources to or make original discoveries.
2.Amateur historians:
      Chess players who get deeply interested in the history of the game,
      becoming historians at chess.
      Most likely to produce reliable interpretation of the discoveries.
3.Copyists:
      Writers of historical articles on chess, using the writings of groups 1 & 2
      but without adding original opinions etc.
      Most likely to get players interested in the games’s history due
      to popular interest.
4.Plagiarists:
      Writers superficially interested in history, mainly picking up sensational
      bits and pieces for ‘cheap histories’.
      Most likely to distort the facts and introduce or repeat outmoded theories.

Comments:
     1. The boundaries between the groups are not sharp. An occasional member of Group 1 could be a reasonable chess player, able to talk sensibly about chess history as such; or a member of Group 2 could get immersed so deeply in the history, that he can be classified as a professional, even although he started late (especially if he had some special skills say as a linguist). Etc.
     2. Although Peter Blommers says: “Most literature on the history of early chess and its origin is of popular nature and can be dismissed at one stroke”, this would only apply to their scientific contributions to the subject. These ‘Group 3’ people play an important role in disseminating historical knowledge to the chess world in general, and might even in particular cases contribute something to our knowledge, when temporarily taking on the mantle of a Group 2 member.
     3. Although I feel that real progress depends on the work of  members of Group 1, results from that Group will probably only be achieved by accident, when working on quite a different line of research they stumble on something of importance for the history of chess. It is quite possible that the importance of such a discovery will only be fully realised by a member of Group 2 who happens to become acquainted with such a discovery i.e. the proper incorporation of new knowledge will most likely result from the combined efforts of Group 1 and Group 2 members.

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