Monday, August 29, 2011

"Gaining Points" and "Lies and Libel" about King Arthur?

For several hundred years people have been trying to fathom out the true facts behind the multi-layered mystique of the arthurian legends. Sometimes it has been professional, trained historians having a bash at the problem, other times internet-amateurs. These attempts vary from the erudite to the downright nonsensical, and some fall half way between. There is some very competent writing on the subject by amateur historians trying to sort their way through the confusion.

Two individuals Alan Wilson and Baram Blackett, aided by metal detectorist Alan Hassell claim to have solved the "mystery", and have created a huge conspiracy theory worthy of the daVinci Code to explain why (apart from the fact they clearly regard themselves as immensely more clever than anyone who has ever looked at the subject) the interpretation has not been accepted by modern scholarship. they see this as due to the same reasons why what they see as "the truth" was "covered up' in the nineteenth century. For what they propose in fact is virtually the same as had been proposed in eighteenth and nineteenth century historiography. They are moreover using exactly the same arguments and material as those earlier historiographers. A muddle of various "old" texts, some suggestive placenames handled with home-grown philology. The main novel element in the argument they have introduced is their conspiracy theory. One in which I was vaguely amused and then annoyed to find I was implicated.

My blog's interest in the whole affair was in the involvement of Mr Hassell the metal detectorist in the whole enterprise. In commenting on this I expressed my views on the "historical research" the metal detecting was intended to bolster. In response Wilson, Blackett and Hassell launched an attack by You-Tube video (see my post on the main blog for this, but here are some screenshots):

In what way I am "lying" (or clowning) is not explained. I presume its because I do not believe their interpretations I am labelled a liar. It is, however, entirely true, I truly do not believe their interpretations and I will attempt to set out just SOME of the reasons why below.

"Ignorant" liar now... Certainly I do not set out to "mislead" about what I think of these gentlemen's "research". Of course the whole idea of scholarly discourse is not name-calling, but discussion of facts and their interpretation.

Well, who is now being deceitful? First of all I did not and do not claim they use "only this source". What I said can be seen in my original post by anyone able to read and understand English. Secondly we will see (below) that in their presentation of the evidence, these gentlemen manage to slip in Geoffrey under another name...

"Constantly" is a word which means more than once. Until this appeared I wrote one post about Wilson, Blackett and Hassell's "researches" - so it's hard to see the justification for the first comment. As for the second... the only one of their half a dozen books to be commercially published (Holy Kingdom - the rest are what we call vanity publications) has been translated into Polish and I not only have a copy (I keep it with my Von Danikens when its not being used to level up a wobbly table leg) but have read it and scribbled all over it. In addition, the maps look like they've been drawn with sharpened sticks. It is a dreadful book.

"Gain points" with whom? Wilson, Blackett and Hassell apparently flatter themselves that mainstream academia is a bit interested in their theories. I imagine most scholars would feel that they belong on the shelf with the Von Danikens and the crystal healing (which geologists and minerologists do not take much interest in either). I am not particularly known for my ability to "toe any line".

It seems to me that Wilson and Blackett have a mania for putting out You-Tube videos and other internet promotional material for their views (read: for their books) there is a flood of this self-promotional stuff under a variety of pseudonyms. Many of the videos have 30-odd views and no comments underneath. interest is flagging. So very probably these guys decided to attempt to stir up some controversy to attract attention to themselves and their views by attacking somebody else.

OK, let's give their views a little more attention. In the post below, I will set out what I think is wrong with their approach to the documents they use to "prove" that the Arthurian legends are based on a particular king of south Wales and that he is buried in a church near Llanharen, mid-Glamorgan. I am not going to go into the other stuff like their claim that they are the next seekers who have (also) found the Lost Ark of the Covenant, the Welsh discovered America and all the other stuff. Take it as read that in my opinion it is all nonsense for exactly the same reasons. Let's just take a look at the way they present the case for the burial site of King Arthur of the legends. The other stuff falls into exactly the same pattern.

Have a look at a couple of definitions of pseudoscience and we will find a number of these traits appearing in the writings of Wilsdon, Blackett and Hassell
Distinguishing Science and Pseudoscience Rory Coker
UK Sceptics etc...

Just for the record, I do not have any particular personal favourite "candidate" for the "real Arthur", though if I were to consider that a real figure lay behind the stories, I would think it likely that he'd have been based somewhere one side of the other of the Bristol Channel, rather then further North, but that's just a surmise.


Morgan said...

Do you have any thoughts on where
"Banna Venta Berniae" the name mentioned as the birthplace of St Patrick might be?

My thoughts would be somewhere in Cumbria near the coast. Ravenglass could be a possibility.

Paul Barford said...

Can't say I've really lost much sleep over it.