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  • Sources Category

    14th Oct

    No matter how obsessive an historian is about her research, no matter how many archives she visits or how many thousands of documents she reads, some details will be lost or confused. That’s an obvious thing to say about something that happened in, say, the 1700’s, but it is also true for events that happened […]

    29th Apr

    A word of caution to family historians and student researchers who are looking for resisters in the archives (see my posts of 23 December 2013, 18 February 2014 and 4 March 2014). Not all the documents in the archives are the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In the first place, very few individuals […]

    6th Aug

    Although resisters did not, as a rule, keep records during the war, various government agencies rushed to create files on them immediately after the war. These agencies fell into two groups: those interested in organizing information for the sake of dispensing money and those interested in figuring out what went on during the war. The […]

    7th Mar

    Although, as an historian, I remain astounded by the vast amount of documentation about Dutch-Paris now available in various archives, a lay person could be forgiven for thinking that rather a lot of the details have been lost. For example, the details of how, exactly, the pastor recruited a café owner to act as a […]

    25th Jan

    Advice from Successful Evaders

    Allied aviators who bailed out over occupied territory and successfully returned to the UK had to answer a lot of questions when they got back to their bases. The engineers, for instance, wanted to know what had happened to their aircraft. Intelligence officers wanted to know about conditions on the ground in continental Europe. And […]

    5th Dec

    Sometimes when I’m humming along in my research, thinking that I’m looking for innocuous facts like date of birth, I suddenly fall into a bog of accusations and counter-accusations, of activities that look very bad from one point of view but reasonable enough from another. It’s not unusual; the Second World War was custom made […]

    18th Feb

    Memories vs. Documents

    It’s hard to know what balance to strike between anecdotal history (as remembered by participants) and documented history (as written at the time) when writing about something as hidden as the Resistance. On the one hand, no one ever thought to write down certain details that can only be uncovered through talking to a participant. […]

    10th Dec

    I received a message from a gentleman in Collonges-sur-Salève, who was kind enough to drive me around the Franco-Swiss border last year. Apparently he’s been reading Flee the Captor, which is a biography of John Weidner’s wartime activities written in the 1960s. My correspondent brought an historical inaccuracy in the book to my attention. Apparently […]

    14th Jun

    The Train Report

    To my surprise and delight, I’ve found the reports of the regular journeys that a Dutch-Paris courier made from Switzerland to France and Belgium every two weeks between October 1943 and June 1944. Our man was combining Dutch-Paris business with official Dutch government-in-exile business, which is why he typed reports. Of course, they were kept […]

    28th Feb

    Historical Shivers

    There’s a lot of dull reading involved in historical research, and at the beginning of a project it’s difficult to tell if the letter of complaint about delayed trams is worth noting down or not. After all, it tells you how the trams were functioning, but is that going to be important? It will be […]