I have been doing some reading in preparation for going back to uni and I have come across one of my pet hates in book. That of no references and bibliographies. As a historian my first port of call is to look at the references and bibliography to look at the reverence of the sources that have been cited in the work. What is the point of not citing your references? It just raises question marks over the methodology being utilised and whether or not what is being written can be trusted.
Is this something non-academic publishers are pursuing? This was a key criticism of Vincent Orange’s biography of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Slessor published by Grub Street. However, in his more recent biography of Air Chief Marshal Dowding this was rectified so maybe they are listening. It is annoying though as someone seeking out potential resources for my own research the ability to see what is being used elsewhere and to decide whether or not they have any value is very important and should not be overlooked.
I was always told as an undergrad that a good historian does not read the book first but looks at the references and bibliography. This also raises the question of the most appropriate referencing system used in historical work. No in wider academia there seems to be a significant shift to the use of the Harvard system of referencing, however, in History we seem to have stuck with footnotes. Why is this? I think it is because of the varied nature of our sources, both primary and secondary. These sources on occasion require explanation, something that the Harvard system does not allow. We can often use a footnote to further explain a point or to make the reader, especially important in a thesis, aware that you recognise another aspect of a debate that is not the primary focus of the debate in question.