Do we know all there is to know?

Discussion in 'Historiography' started by Jonathan Ball, Dec 28, 2012.

  1. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Just wondering if there are any as yet untapped resources or archives out there waiting to be discovered?

    Are we now entering a period when anything new on WW2 will be revealed in the private memoirs, diaries or letters of the participants only?
  2. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    A lot of material has become available in the last 25 years in the UK, US, and to some extent in Russia, but I don't know about other countries--so yes, there is more to be learned from archival sources. The Soviet archives were more open a few years ago in the Yeltsin era then they are now, so some more stuff may eventually emerge from there. The war in China has been generally neglected by Western scholars, but I have not heard that the Chinese government has let them loose in its archives. The Japanese had time to hide and destroy a lot of material in 1945, so some surprises may turn up there. The French? I don't know what their rules are and how much they have turned loose or are still hanging on to.
  3. Callisto

    Callisto Twitter ye not

    Just wondering if there are any as yet untapped resources or archives out there waiting to be discovered?

    Are we now entering a period when anything new on WW2 will be revealed in the private memoirs, diaries or letters of the participants only?

    from my experience there is still some more digging to do in national archives. And it;s not just what we know is available for ww2, but it would help by making them more accessible. Poor cataloguing is a contributing factor but the lack of indexing is a major disadvantage.All well and good that material is in public domain, when it is next to impossible to find specific mention of an individual or a unit, it;ll remain for the most part "untapped".

    I hope in the future that regimental museums will make what they have for ww2 more accessible but with the anniversary of ww1 approaching impetus if any, will probably be for that.

    What may yet to be discovered in archives of other nations i do not know, but i'd imagine that in some participating countries, whose post war history is turbulent, archives might have been a low priority.
  4. PsyWar.Org

    PsyWar.Org Archive monkey

    As far as British official archives are concerned mostly what is kept back is personal information about individuals, e.g. WWII service and casualty records..

    Awhile ago I had a look at the catalogue entries for some of the files at the National Archives that are still closed to public inspection, here's a brief breakdown with a few selected records:

    Admiralty records (ADM series) 112 files closed with open descriptions;
    War Office records (WO series) 54 files closed with open descriptions;
    Royal Air Force records (AIR series) 53 files closed with open descriptions;
    Foreign Office (FO series) 163 files closed with open descriptions.

    ADM mostly ships' medical journals and courts martials;
    WO mostly courts martials;
    AIR mostly courts martials charge books.

    Some selected files still closed:AIR 14/2899, Fu G25and25a radio equipment 1942 Mar.-1944 Apr.
    AIR 23/6309, R.A.F. Wireless Intelligence Service, French North Africa: periodical reports 1943-1944
    AIR 37/1456, Sussex parties: intelligence collection teams operating in wartime France 1943 Nov -

    WO 106/6232, Appointment of British liaison officer with General MacArthur 1942 May-1943 Jan
    WO 106/3238, British forces in Greece 1945 Mar-Aug
    WO 201/820, Intelligence summary 1942 Oct
    WO 203/3940, No. 2 Mobile Section C.S.D.I.C.: interrogation reports 1943 Dec.-1944 Mar.
    WO 203/5449, Telegrams from Prime Minister and Chief of Staff etc. to Commanders 1944 Jan.-Apr.
    WO 219/5293, British and US suspected traitors (individual cases): folder 1 1944 Dec-1945 Feb
    WO 219/5294, British and US suspected traitors (individual cases): folder 2 1944 Nov-1945 Jan
    WO 219/5295, British and US suspected traitors (individual cases): folder 3 1944 Dec-1945 Feb
    WO 219/5296, British and US suspected traitors (individual cases): folder 4 1945 Feb-May
    WO 219/5297, British and US suspected traitors (individual cases): folder 5 1945 May-July
    WO 259/84, Operation OVERLORD: leakage of information 1944 Feb

    Then, of course, are files related to SIS, the Security Service and the Government Code and Cipher School. Quite a few of the latter two have been released but still much hasn’t and no official releases of SIS material yet.

    In my own area of propaganda research there's a major area of records that the Government refuse to open.
  5. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    The simple answer is there is much more to come out, many histories of recent years have often cherry picked sources to a shocking extent or just ignored archives around the world.

    Now, thanks to the net, and the increasing digitisation of primary sources - and over the next 20 years many of the original histories sliding out of copyright - I expect we'll see a dramatic shift in the perception of the campaigns, thanks to using the full scope of Allied and Axis documentation.

    That said it'll probably take a decade to undo some of the damage caused.

    Many historians have missed key accounts in interrogation reports either at unit level, or at later camps and I believe that much of this will emerge piecemeal.

    For example to build a good basis on 53 Div I've used the NA, Regimental Archives, Museum's libraries, personal accounts, US National Archives, German sources, other Battalion/Brigade/Div documents, even books in Polish to try and get a balanced picture and outline of the sources. Much of the most interesting information emerged in unlikely places which had I not vastly expanded the scope for information would have ever emerged.

    Have I found much of major interest out? Yes as I said in unexpected locations. Have I tied down some of the more troubling issues, not yet. Do I believe I will in time - entirely possibly.

    Looking at the Footnotes and Bibliographies in texts also helps show some glaring gaps in the historiography.

    Andrew Marr covered it on R4 'Start the Week' with Hastings/Beevor/Gardiner/Ferguson - and I felt that the assertion that few great revelations were to emerge was foolish, I mean if true why do the same rehashed books keep appearing!

    Equally many private Archives/Museums have simply vanished into the mists of time (or skips) and I believe that some knowledge may well have been lost for ever.
  6. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    If there are any really big revelations still to emerge, they will probably come out of the non-English speaking world: China and the former USSR seem like the most likely candidates.

    However, it's important to remember that historiographical change is not just about discovering new evidence; it's also about reinterpreting what's already there. Many of the most interesting developments in history over the last fifty years have occured because the questions historians ask have changed.

    Best, Alan
  7. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I've heard rumours on more than one ocassion from various sources including the National Archives that the Russians have a fair few BEF documents that they captured from the Germans at the end of the war.

    On the Missing Men Files front - I suspect there is a series somewhere for officers.

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