I agree, of course, that we often might be working over ground plowed long
ago. That's something one must be very careful about when writing an
article or a book. But one of the great things about the free-and-easy
exchanges on listservs is that it's possible to display one's ignorance and
soon be called on it.
What I'm saying, then, is that while I have ideas on many of the kinds of
things we talk about, I cannot possibly have read enough to be sure that my
ideas are "new" or even worthwhile. When, however, somebody more
knowledgeable in the field points out my error or lack of historical
knowledge concerning something I've written on the listserv, it keeps me
from being being embarrassed in the reviewed literature. (An analogy: A few
years ago I amused myself by working out what seemed to me to be a
difficult mathematical problem. I wasn't dumb enough to try to publish it.
But I did proudly write it up and show it to a colleague in our math
department--note, I am a chemist--and he gently pointed out that it had
been solved aver a century ago.)
So, if someone makes, for example, an historical boo-boo, let's hear from a
historian on the matter.
After all, there are enough other ways to get into difficulty in one's
Home: 401 5th Avenue
Sioux Center, IA 51250