Monday, September 07, 2009

Question from Tracey - Fraudulent sources and rewriting books

Sorry...this isn't Tudor related, but it seems to me this subject was brought up months ago...mainly 'cause it had to do with historical research and how careful the historian/writer needs to be.

Veronica Buckley's bio "The Secret Wife of Louis XIV" is now finally published. It was delayed due to a major source Ms. Buckley used being found to be a fraud. My understanding is that she had to go back into the book and delete any information added that came directly from that supposed journal of King Louis'.

My question(s)...did the author 'rewrite' the book and are the chances of picking up details from the bad source still between the pages? I can find nothing referencing this episode and I'd rather not read a book where it's known from the get-go that information is going to be incorrect.

Thanks! Tracey


  1. I hate to see a question languish unanswered so...

    Veronica Buckley appears to be an Oxford trained historian. Her biography of Queen Christina is quite readable and although I was only half way through it when I had to box it up for the summer, I was quite happy with it.

    I have not read this new book but it seems to me that if she went to the trouble to correct the draft because she realized a source was fraudulent, then it is likely that what has been left is based on other more reliable sources.

    A competent historian will also check her analysis is still valid after discovering a fraudulent source.

    There's an interesting podcast from the National Archives (UK) on fraudulent sources. I just listened to it this morning. Part of the detective work today relies on forensic science - an area most historians are not trained in. However, the speaker points out that good historians have intuition based on their research that leads them to suspect some fraudulent sources and then request forensic work.

    Unfortunately, you will have to read the book and report back to us your thoughts on whether the author was successful in reworking her text in light of the fraudulent journal.

  2. There's a review of this book in the New York Times Book Review this week.

    The reviewer does not comment on the sources issue and there is only one line at the end that might be interpreted as critical - but just.

    "“In her heart,” Buckley explains, implying that a biographer has privileged access to that most mysterious of human organs, “she felt entitled to be Queen.”"

  3. Thank you, KB, for your insight. The NY Times review was read and coupled with one other that was found, I will most likely make the purchase.

    On my shelf are a few books on this period of French history so I won't be going in totally blind. Again, my main concern was how much of a healthy dose of scepticism had to be kept while reading the biography, especially knowing there was an unreliable source used in the beginning.


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