Why Footnotes?

This is a blog about Irish garrison towns, but it’s a blog with footnotes. Yes, I went to university before the internet revolutionised reading and research, but many other blogger historians of a similar vintage don’t bother with footnotes. So, why have I included them?

The architecture of professional history writing is unattractive, intimidating to non-specialists and impairs readability, so why clutter a blog with references? What are references for anyway? In academic journals and monographs, a very important function that references serve is to prove to your academic colleagues how many bum-numbing hours you spent in the library.

But references do a lot more than proclaim a high-boredom threshold – they give the reader more bang for their buck. Footnotes allow the reader to learn more, to follow the trail laid by the author’s research. Maybe the footnotes won’t lead the reader to the same conclusion as the author. It would be odd if we all agreed but without footnotes it is difficult to sustain debate that goes beyond BTL vitriol. If I cannot prove how or where I found a fact or opinion, I cannot defend my argument with reasoned debate. And I am writing this blog partly so that I can learn what others know about Irish garrison towns. So follow the footnotes and challenge the arguments.

But here’s the bad news for those readers who want to do all their research online: some footnotes will refer to books, pamphlets, documents and newspapers that are not freely available online. This material may never be freely available, because the firewalls protect lucrative revenue streams.  I will endeavour to find as much verifiable material from reputable online sources as I can, but the blog cannot rely solely on such material. Tracking down the good stuff that only exists in archives, universities and libraries is too tedious for many people but I love it. So the footnotes to this material are there for me, as much as for you. Otherwise I would never remember where the killer quote came from.

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