Charles Hadfield and the World Canals Collection

From the Archives: NarrowBoat, Spring 2019

Joseph Boughey

Joseph Boughey examines the public archives of well-known canal historian Charles Hadfield

Only a very small number of people in Britain could be deemed to be inland waterways historians, and still fewer have deposited their own papers in public archives. When archives comprise mostly materials that, as in Charles Hadfield’s case, have led to publication, some may doubt how these could be useful. If all the valuable material went into books and articles, then surely the remainder can be discarded, right? Wrong. My objections to this notion may be made on several counts. Notes and informal sources show how definitive accounts like those of Charles Hadfield were put together. If there were rare errors in transcription or interpretation, the archived records can show how these originated. New materials may have come to light since publication, so that older sources can be reinterpreted and their reliability assessed. Events subsequent to the date of publication can show whether the published conclusions, using trends and summaries that are now historic, can be modified. …

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