Talk:Ragnvald Ulfsson

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Legend and history[edit]

The contemporaneous source is Sigvatr Þorðarson, who connects this guy with Svitjod. The rest is elaborations by Icelanders. /Pieter Kuiper 09:41, 30 September 2007 (UTC)

I am fine with improving this article, as long as the decision as to what is "elaboration" and what is "history" is based on reliable sources. This article is in line with the encyclopedia Nordisk familjebok which suggests that a great deal of information is not "fiction" as you call it in your edit summary.--Berig 15:24, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
Nordisk Familjebok is a century old, and definitely not to be relied on nowadays. /Pieter Kuiper 15:51, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
I have seen you use it yourself as a source, so why should it suddenly not be relied on now?--Berig 16:05, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
I have found Nordisk Familjebok useful to show that some things were oldfashioned already a hundred years ago. Nowadays, all knowledge pre-1100 seems to be lost. Nationalencyklopedin has only two sentences about Ragnvald Ulfsson. Regrettably, Wikipedia is the major factor preserving the old "knowledge" (lore would be a more appropriate term) in the digital age. /Pieter Kuiper 17:07, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
Please go ahead and make the article up to date, preferably by adding sources and discussing them. I look forward to seeing your progress.--Berig 17:18, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
I reverted you because you continue your old habits of deleting information. Please add sources and discuss and do not remove based on WP:IDON'TLIKEIT.--Berig 17:34, 30 September 2007 (UTC)

Pieter Kuiper's allegations of OR[edit]

Pieter Kuiper accused me of WP:OR[1] without any basis whatsoever in the edit history[2]. I strongly, suggest that Pieter Kuiper reconsiders his behaviour. Moreover, the information he refers to is quite common and should be easy for anyone to find in history books.--Berig 17:57, 30 September 2007 (UTC)

No, this is not in any modern history book. Berig reintroduced information without a source. If it is not OR, please give a reference. /Pieter Kuiper 18:07, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
Larsson's book Götarnas riken (2002) is a great source. As for Pieter Kuiper's recent removal of content, Larsson says:
Och lika lite kan jag få veta ifall Stenkils far Ragnvald var identisk med västgötajarlen med samma namn, som det ofta påstås i den historiska literaturen - en hypotes som i och för sig också skulle leda till släktskap med den gamla kungaätten genom att Ragnvald enligt sagorna var kusin till Olof Skötkonung. (pp. 156-157)
My translation:
And just as little can I be informed whether Stenkil's father Ragnvald [the Old] was identical to the Västergötland Jarl by the same name [i.e. Ragnvald Ulfsson], as it is often stated in history books - a hypothesis which, as it were, would lead to kinship with the old dynasty through the fact that Ragnvald according to the sagas was the cousin of Olof Skötkonung.
Now, I strongly resent the fact that Pieter Kuiper is accusing me for OR, in his edit summaries, for something that I do not appear to have written and because of what is such a common piece of information that it should not need references (often stated in history books).--Berig 20:18, 30 September 2007 (UTC)

Sources, reliable and otherwise[edit]

Clearly, if a 1990s encyclopedia disagrees with an 1890s one, there's no question that we follow the modern one. However, the issue is that the 1890s version has a lot of (IMO doubtless misleading) detail that the modern version drops. When there is doubt, and when it comes to sagas there is always doubt, I'm a fan of the formulas "X says" and "according to X". If our readers want to believe X, that's up to them. Where subjects appear in multiple sorts of sources like that, things get a bit more complicated, but the same general rule can be followed. We use "was" for historical material that modern (not 19th century) historians think is reliable, and "is" for the rest, or we are sure to say what the source is wherever relevant. The appropriate manual of style is usually going to be this one.

The Sawyers' Medieval Scandinavia (chapter 1: Sources) says this about the sagas:

Sagas about Icelandic families before the conversion and about early Norwegian kings cannot be dismissed as fiction. Their reliability as sources for the details of political or military events, individual careers, and even family history, is doubtful, but the generally consistent picture they give of social structure, conduct, beliefs and values must have some basis in reality.

That seems quite clear cut: sagas are of doubtful reliability as a source of historical events. Their comments specifically include Snorri. Angus McLellan (Talk) 18:00, 30 September 2007 (UTC)

Of course they are doubtful, but we hardly achieve a good article by removing information because they are saga based as Pieter Kuiper wants to do. There are at least two featured articles with plenty of saga references: User:Haukurth has written the article Battle of Svolder and User:Briangotts has written Gunnhild Mother of Kings. The way these two articles treat saga material should be a guideline for this article.--Berig 20:25, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
No, oh no! That is old school historiography. Wikipedia should reflect the current, academic way of writing history. Wikipedia should follow modern historians. Articles here should not contain own syntheses WP:OR out of a mix of primary sources, sagas, and older historical works. /Pieter Kuiper 20:45, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
Believe me, if I had found more recent scholarly discussion of the battle of Svolder I would certainly have made use of it. It just doesn't seem to have been a popular subject among historians for the past 50 years. Take the brief treatment in The Cambridge History of Scandinavia (2003): "A determining factor was a battle in 1000 (or 999) when Sven fought together with the Swedish king Olof Skötkonung, probably already his man, against Olaf Tryggvason who had now become king of Norway. The location of this sea battle has been much discussed among modern historians. According to Adam it took place in Öresund 'where kings used to fight' whereas the Icelandic sources place it at the isle of 'Svoldr' near the Slavonic coast. At any rate, King Olaf was killed and two Norwegian earls were installed by Sven to rule Norway." Then there is a citation to an article written in the 1950s. The fact that they would cite such an old article suggests to me that not much has been written on the subject since then. If you know of articles about the battle of Svolder written recently then I would be delighted to read them and update the article accordingly. Haukur 21:42, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
Also, lest I be misunderstood, I would also be happy to see a recent article on the accounts of the battle in a literary context. As I keep saying the battle is as much a literary subject as it is an historical one. Haukur 21:44, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
I don't entirely agree. The articles should of course follow modern historians (so no 10th century kings of "Sweden" please). However, there is no reason why saga materials should not be included, so long as the same sort of qualifications as in Battle of Svolder are used. Our readers may well have read some sagas - they are much more accessible in English than academic histories - and might be surprised if such material is not included. Indeed, they might add it themselves. So we should include it. But if we do, we should, if possible, say that it is unreliable, late, invented, and the other terms that historians use to describe it. What space we give to the sagas, and how much material we quote, is an editorial decision. The more modern commentary we can find on those kinds of sources, the more of them we can easily include. If we can't find commentary, we should probably limit ourselves to saying that X appears in A-, B-, and C-saga with a brief description. I have written these kinds of articles, although on Scots/Irish/Anglo-Saxon topics rather than Scandinavian ones (although I did write the resolutely saga-free Amlaíb Conung - the saga version is Olaf the White). Áedán mac Gabráin includes a lot of completely unreliable material such as the historically worthless Gein Brandub. My rewrite of Giric includes little else but late and unreliable material. Why not, so long as we are clear on what it is. The only reason to exclude information would be an absence of reliable (==modern) sources which discuss it. Adding our own commentary to the sagas would be original research. Including them without commentary would be of little value to readers, but it wouldn't be original research. It might, however, be one of the things that Wikipedia is not: an indiscriminate collection of information. Without commentary, our readers might as well go straight to the original sagas. Angus McLellan (Talk) 21:09, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
The original sagas do not have all these dates on them. The original sagas are stories, told in Iceland on long winter evenings about a land far away, with feuds between evil or good kings, ambitious queens, outlandish or heathen customs, etcera. Here, this is transformed and harmonized, with totally fictional dates, remarriages, co-regencies, and all that. It is a mess, misleading readers with all its "scholarly" footnotes to antiquated works. I think it is terrible. /Pieter Kuiper 21:18, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
As the Sawyer quote shows ("cannot be dismissed as fiction"), historians believe the sagas are of more historical value that you are suggesting, although much less reliable than nationalist Scandinavian historians in the past allowed. McTurk's work, for example, is based on the sagas. Now I find McTurk to be rather too credulous where these are concerned, there's an example here, but that's of no importance. The fact is sagas that are used, and quoted, in historical work.
I agree that creating ones very own synthetic account is a bad thing, but that's easily fixed. The answer is not to throw everything out, but to fix it by using historians' syntheses. And historians do quote dates for Ragnvald. The Cambridge History places his floruit in the early 11th century, the gullible Władysław Duczko thinks he was born in about 980 and married Ingeborg around 999. How he can possibly know this, I have no idea. Still, he put it in writing, and he's an associate professor at Uppsala. I imagine similarly mistaken examples of precision could be found elsewhere if one looked. Berig found a quote from Larsson mentioning - and apparently disbelieving - the identification of Ragnvald Ulfsson with Ragnvald den Gamle. Well, that too can be included. It is as useful to add what is not known, and what is rejected, as what is accepted. Angus McLellan (Talk) 21:55, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
Larsson, "Göternas riken"? He is an archeologist, and Historisk tidskrift had a crushing review of the book.
Ragnvald is mentioned by a contemporary source (Austrfararvisur), there is no problem with his floruit. The problem is all the rest, all the stuff not found in the skaldic poem. (And of course, the scald should also be treated critically.) /Pieter Kuiper 22:06, 30 September 2007 (UTC)

PK greatly exaggerates the severity of an ideologized review by a historian named Hermansson[3], and which was published in 2004, two years after the publication of Larsson's book (2002). Hermansson's problem is that Larsson writes about Migration Age and Viking Age warfare in what is today Sweden, something which Hermansson finds passé. For those who are unfamiliar with Larsson, he is a prolific writer of books both for the general public and for professional archaeologists.--Berig 16:03, 1 October 2007 (UTC)

It purports to be a contemporary sources, but, as the Sawyers say, it may not be. I assume it survives in a much later collection (the Manuscript titles mean nothing to me). As for Larsson's weltanschaung, obsolete or not, he is an expert. This is a field where the views of archaeologists are relevant. There's no hard and fast line separating early medieval history from early medieval archaeology. If you don't like Larsson, I'm sure someone else dismissed the supposed connection. Given the failings you mention, he'd be more likely to accept it than some. 20:22, 1 October 2007 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Angusmclellan (talkcontribs)
Hermanson's review is criticizing Larsson for his old-fashioned, semi-fascist or social-Darwinist ideological outlook, which would fit better in the 1930. That is severe criticism. See also Talk:Consolidation of Sweden#Debate on sources. Larsson is prolific, but professional historians regard his popular stuff as hopelessly passé.
Berig has not come up with a source for Ragnvald's second marriage (only sweeping claims that this is in history books), so I will delete the stuff at the end of the article. /Pieter Kuiper 16:21, 1 October 2007 (UTC)
In order to show that you are telling the truth, Pieter Kuiper[4], you should show citations from Hermanson's article. I have searched for both the graphemes "fascist" and "darwinist" (the same in Swedish) but they don't appear in the document[5]. Moreover, you should give a reference for your serious statement that "professional historians regard his popular stuff as hopelessly passé".--Berig 16:39, 1 October 2007 (UTC)
On this talk page, we are supposed to discuss the article about Ragnvald. Berig is diverting attention from my insistence on sources for Ragnar's second marriage, which Berig claimed were found in history books. As to Hermanson, he mentions that Larsson reminds him of herrefolk-theories, and anyone not totally ignorant of 20th-century history should know what that implies. /Pieter Kuiper 17:23, 1 October 2007 (UTC)
As for your accusations that I divert attention from the subject, it was you who brought the subject up[6], but I am glad that you suddenly decide to stick to the topic and I agree with that. As for your new deletion of content[7], are you positive that this can not be found in any history books or in any sources?--Berig 19:45, 1 October 2007 (UTC)

I found another review of Larsson's book indexed in LIBRIS, in the archaeological journal Fornvännen 98(2003):322[8], that could possibly be used for balance. Fornvännen is partially available online, but this review is not (the articles of some recent volumes are on-line but apparently not the reviews). It can probably be found on open shelves in most academic libraries in Sweden. Olaus 10:45, 2 October 2007 (UTC)

Actually, when I check, it turns out that the articles are not on-line either, just their abstracts. Olaus 11:02, 2 October 2007 (UTC)

Thanks Olaus, it might be useful.--Berig 14:20, 2 October 2007 (UTC)

If you still care, there is yet another review of Larsson's book here, written by fellow archaeologist Claes Theliander. Kallerdis 12:30, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Burden of proof[edit]

The burden of proof is on User:Berig who wants this "information" about Ragnvald's second marriage in the article. Berig restored this again and again, without giving a source, only on sweeping claims that this is in history books. In fact, the part that I deleted says that there is no source: "The second marriage is not mentioned in any historical source. It is solely based on the assumption that Stenkil's father Ragnvald the Old (mentioned in Hervarar saga) is identical with Ragnvald Ulfsson."

My assumption is that this was user:Wiglaf's inference. /Pieter Kuiper 06:54, 2 October 2007 (UTC)

You say "again and again", but according to the article's history I had only restored it twice[9]. The problem is that three times you have removed the theorized connection between Ragnvald the Old and Ragnvald Ulfsson and the latter's theorized role as the father of Stenkil. Don't you agree that it is a bit questionable to remove so much information just because you argue that the marriage of Ragnvald the Old and Astrid may only be an assumption by an editor? In my experience most wikipedia editors would simply add a {{fact}} tag.--Berig 14:19, 2 October 2007 (UTC)

Better sources needed before discussion[edit]

It seems to me that you are looking at to few recent secondary sources. This whole debate, and any other debates of similar historical issues, is just a pointless waste of time if you don't survey recent scholarly texts on the subject.

I have access to the CD edition of Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, where there is an article on Ragnvald Ulfsson in a volume published 1995-1997. It includes a bibliography and at least briefly discusses different issues.

I can cut and paste the article here (it is less than a page in print). I guess it would be a violation of copyright to do so, but could it then be removed by a site administrator after you have all read and copied the text and before Google finds and caches it? Or you could go to whatever libraries you have nearby and check for yourselves. Olaus 07:44, 2 October 2007 (UTC)

I can look it up. The library here has the work. /Pieter Kuiper 07:54, 2 October 2007 (UTC)
I'd be interested in seeing it. Could I ask you to email me a copy? The link is Special:Emailuser/Angusmclellan. Everyone here but me can probably see it in a library. Angus McLellan (Talk) 08:52, 2 October 2007 (UTC)
An e-mail has been sent. Olaus 10:37, 2 October 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the reference Olaus! I have just read the article and it reveals how subjective the evaluation of the historical value of the sagas is. Nationalencyklopedin (1994), Lars-Ove Larsson ("Stenkil" in Vem är vem i svensk historia, 2000) and Mats G Larsson (2002) state as a fact that Ragnvald was the jarl of Västergötland while the lexicon attributes this only to Snorri's later account, which it gives low value as a source.--Berig 14:06, 2 October 2007 (UTC)

Referencing templates[edit]

I find the "template" method of entering references ridiculously complex, and have removed this. I tried to add a page number to Winroth's article but it came out as "pp.", despite the whole thing being on only one page:

Maybe I just don't get it and it can be fixed somehow. I made links with |-lines to put the authors in alphabetical order, despite their linking.

One thing I don't understand is why Pieter Kuiper removed Winroth's article from the alphabetical list when he inserted it as a footnote. Footnotes and bibliographies are supposed to include the same references, just ordered alphabetically (or systematically, according to repository and archival signum, for archival sources). If the template is restored, please put it in the bibliography, not in the middle of the text. I have looked at the "source text" for articles with more references, and it gets awfully complex and difficult to read the article. Olaus 08:59, 3 October 2007 (UTC)

Sometimes the templates are a bit of a constraint (the "pp."-thing has also been bugging me), but in general it is a help in formatting according to a common style. The rest is a matter of convention, and wikipedians are divided. Many people prefer the Harvard system, but I think the duplication is unnecessary, certainly for short articles like these. /Pieter Kuiper 09:46, 3 October 2007 (UTC)
It may not really be necessary for a short article, but I sort of prefer it for consistency's sake. Generally speaking, I like getting the overview of literature in one place at the end (and in this case I think simplifying the links within the text justifies it as well). Olaus 16:54, 3 October 2007 (UTC)

I made a new page on Theodor Wisén. It is only a few lines, and I'll admit that it is still pretty useless, but at least the link leads somewhere now. I did it mostly because there was a photo of Wisén used in the Swedish Wikipedia. :) Can someone figure out who the NF author signature "-r" is supposed to represent? Olaus 16:54, 3 October 2007 (UTC)