I’ve never really made any bones about who I am and what I do. I’m a young-ish Historian, who reads a lot, and takes an interest in what goes on around the world. Yes, I talk a lot about military stuff. Im not a soldier, sailor or airman. But I am a Historian who puts a history-stye spin on current events. Therefore I see my view of the past as not just the past, but at the intersection between the past, present and the future, and all kinds of subjects that run through it like threads.

I’m always intrigued by the reactions that my writing has had. I have no problem with criticism, if anything I like it when people point out if I’ve made a mistake; it helps shape my thoughts. But when its based on nothing but snobbery, I allow myself a little chuckle. In recent months I have read that my writing is ‘hardly rocket science’, and it has been firmly stressed by another than I am an ‘amateur’. Both of which statements are, essentially correct. However, it is the undertones inherent in them that disappoint me.

I do not have a clue how a surface to air missile works. My Dad – an ex-Dockyard worker – does, having worked on them in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and now works on satellites. But he doesnt know much about history. My point? Not everyone can now everything, its pointless to try! I remember giving a talk based on my dissertation some years ago, about a nautical instrument maker in 19th Century Portsmouth. One of the audience asked a deliberately trying question about the standardisation of screw threads. My response? ‘why don’t you ask an engineer?’!

The internet is full of self-appointed experts, who love to talk the talk on all manner of forums. I’m no stranger to internet hard-men, and internet-experts are from the same mould – the easiest way to make yourself look good is to knock someone else. The irony is you tend to find that the most snidey critics have nothing of substance to offer of their own. Whereas my articles, my talks, my research, is there for all to see.

Its not rocket science. And too bloody right. Cos then only rocket scientists would understand it! And everyone deserves a chance to understand the past, the present and the future.



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7 responses to “Reactions

  1. kel_hig

    Hi James,

    I just wanted to say that I follow you on twitter and really enjoy reading your blog. You’re clearly passionate about military history, you make some interesting points and the fact that you present your material in such an accessible manner on here is a positive, not a negative, as far as I’m concerned. I’m considered a “professional” historian (though am an early career researcher, just post-PhD, so not yet very well established in my field) but I don’t work on military history and it’s an area I’m sure you know far more about than I ever will! I too blog online, and when I’m blogging I write in a very different style compared to writing a lengthy, more indepth academic piece as I realise I’m catering for a different kind of audience. I think you have got the balance on here right and look forward to reading more from you in the future.


  2. James Daly

    Hi Kel, many thanks for your kind words. Its always nice to get positive feedback, especially from a ‘real’ historian! As you say, it is all about balance and who exactly you are writing for.

  3. Jed

    Has someone been giving you a hard time old chap ? Do you need to point them out so we can give them a good talking too.. ?


    Perhaps you should stop using that derogatory term for Southampton’s footbal club !

  4. Mike Burleson

    The self-appointed experts are the first to forget history too often. So historians are needed in the military discussion, especially when the professionals say “we can’t do this” because there more likely is an historical precedent.

    Concerning the military, when others say we can’t defeat insurgents or pirates, we can only build smaller number of ships, we can only afford a handful of planes per decade, we can’t reform our shipyards, industries ect. I say, we have done it before and we can do it again.

    Keep up the excellent commentary, James. It will eventually sink in!

  5. James Daly

    Mike I’m reminded of the Admirals in the first half of the twentieth century who stuck to the big gun battleships through nothing but egoism, even though it was clear future wars would be fought under the waves and in the skies. Napoleon though that rifles wouldnt catch on. Tanks and submarines were thought to be ‘un-British’. It goes on and on…

    I guess what I’m alluding to, is that instead of being in some brave new world, we’re in the same one, with all kinds of changes behind us. The weapons might be different, but its the same process of new threats, sticky establishments and eventual change.

    As one of my uni tutors tried to instill in us – it is better to use simple words well, than to use complex words badly.

  6. Mike Burleson

    Like you, I consider myself a historian first. Not saying we have all the answers, but it is much easier to see the Big Picture with at least a basic understanding of the past.

  7. I myself a student of history, i think you are a balanced man, keep your work continue and do’nt take cirticizm so serious.

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