DavidCoblentz wrote:Yeah, but that's not much different than a lot of the historical fencing texts that we have
Any author from any time period is going to have a bias, and if you read them coming from a different background, you will probably have some serious problems with it. If we get upset by someone's biases, then we often miss the really interesting things that they actually do have to offer. I'm not trying to say that the Victorians were perfect or anything, but I think that there's a lot of really fascinating material there(even about renaissance and medieval fighting). A lot of these guys were trying to do the same things that we are, and it's really useful sometimes to step back for a minute and see how someone else has approached the material in a completely different way. They were in a completely different culture, they didn't have as many resources available to them as we do, and they also had some pretty different goals about what they are trying to do. It's fascinating to see how those things impacted what they did.
Our approach to this stuff is usually just as biased as there's was. The refreshing thing about the Victorians is that they are completely open about it
I appreciate your thoughtful and well written post, but I really couldn't disagree more. Yes everyone has bias, but no not all eras were equal, any more than all researchers are, and I don't pick up the same intensity of crazy, twisted stupidity in most* of the pre-industrial era fencing manuals I'm familiar with as I do in nearly everything I read from the Victorian era. While I agree that the Victorians have some things we can learn from, I think their bias is extraordinary (if not unique) and there is a huge noise to signal ratio in most of what they left us. Their bullshit was more important to them than finding out the truth of anything. Not to say I don't still use them, but one has to be very careful. Just as if, for example, if you need to read German material which was published between 1933 - 1945, or certain types of research from Spain printed between 1939 - 1975, or anything Russian between 1921 and 1991, especially pre 1956. Yes the Soviet scholars did some good research, but the proper marxist slant on everything was far more important to them than accuracy. You know it is simply going to color nearly everything you read, meaning it's all pretty badly tainted - even apart from the particular nature or objective quality of their particular ideology, so you really have to keep that in mind. I put the Victorians on this same level. I know not everyone does of course...
While I'm pretty critical of modern academia and their blind spots (many if not most of which actually still derive directly from the Victorians), I definitely do not think we are as biased in the HEMA scene today in the 21st Century as they were in the Victorian era. We don't know nearly anything about Medieval Europe, but at least most of us are pretty open about that. That alone is a substantial difference.
* with a few notable exceptions like say, Swetnam