Wikipedia:Peer review/Penda of Mercia/archive1

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Penda of Mercia[edit]

I'd love to hear someone's thoughts about this. I'm continuing to work on it and I like to imagine a day when it can be a featured article, but the article is about 95% my work and I'd like to have someone else's input. One thing about the subject is that there aren't too many solid facts, but there are a lot of questions and a lot of historical speculation. I'm uncertain to what extent I should report such speculation, and whether it's OK for the article to be as short as it is when the available facts are relatively scarce. Another thing: have I overdone the sourcing? I like to attribute as much as possible, but in the past I've been criticized for citing too much. Everyking 18:27, 16 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Cool article, Everyking! Sourcing: I don't think you've overdone the sourcing, and it's good to have most of it tucked away inconspicuously yet accessibly in footnotes, freeing up the text, which can occasionally be confusing from all the referencing of primary sources as it is (see below). But the footnotes don't work right: they're supposed to take you to the bottom of the page when you click on them. You need to have them encode the actual name of the section referred to; look at Philetaerus for an example. Also look at that article for an example of separating "References" from "Footnotes". If you do a more standard footnote system (well explained here by Paul August), you could actually have fewer superscribed footnotes in the text, a Good Thing. E. g. the little swarm of notes in the paragraph beginning "The victor of Heavenfield, Oswald of Bernicia" might be consolidated into one long note mentioning several sources, which is impossible with your present system. It's not a lot of sourcing information that's distracting to the reader, it's the gnat-like presence of a lot of superscribed note numbers.
Having said that, I do think the info in note 1 should be more summary, considering how small the difference is between the alternatives. Did Penda die in 654, 655, or 656? You don't make a case in the article for why we care. Also, while this may not be a rockribbed rule, it's a matter of good rhetoric to preferably avoid footnotes in the Lead, especially having a note after just a few words. If it was me, I'd mention the 654—656 conundrum further down, and footnote that instead.
Text: ("The battle was known as Cogwy to the Welsh"—so? Is that nugget meant to be just dropped in there, or is it connected with the rest?) From a position of ignorance, I find the "Early activities and beginning of reign" section very confusing, I think it's something to do with the way it keeps coming back to disagreement in the sources about dates, and partly subordinates everything else to that, and at the same time other things are trying to get out from under, like the description of Penda as most warlike. And the agreement after the battle of Cirencester seems somehow linked with the doubts about how old Penda was (surely not? but it says "also"—I can't figure it). I think you need to restructure this section quite radically, and to signpost as much as possible what the focus/foci of it is/are. Perhaps more, rather than less, of source disagreement could go in the notes, making it possible to keep a cleaner line of argument in the text? Or, you could try to highlight the few things that aren't in doubt (are there any?) The next section, "Hatfield Chase and the reign of Oswald", is a lot easier to follow, and I think it has to do with the way all three paragraphs there open with a sentence about something simple that is simply the case—oh sweet relief—and only then go on to all the doubtfulnesses. In relation to the complexities and doubts, the rest of the article reads altogether extremely well, congratulations! Length of sections and of paragraphs is just right, helpful for flow and easy on the eye. And sure the article's long enough—it's comprehensive, isn't it?
Images: I realize you'll have to manage without a portrait, but what about a few nice pics of illuminated manuscripts or something? Best,--Bishonen | Talk 10:30, 17 Jan 2005 (UTC). Comment was apparently deleted by El C, I assume accidentally, after 7 minutes; I'm reinserting it now.--Bishonen | Talk 12:09, 17 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Oops, sorry about that. El_C 12:20, 17 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Thanks for your comments; I was unable to reply to them initially because my friend RickK thought he could make an exception to Wikipedia policy for me, because I'm so special. Well, I've fixed the link style; they were that way before, too, but then someone changed them, I don't know why. You're probably right about "Cogwy"; it should just be in the Battle of Maserfield article. I think you're also right about the first section, but I've thought about that and I'm not really sure how to improve that. I'll keep thinking. Everyking 01:26, 18 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Yeah, I was aware that there might be a problem of replying and editing. :-( I'm sorry, that whole business must be shattering. The pedagogics of the first secion are tricky to fix, no doubt. The uncertainties in it ought not be simplified. I could have a go at moving bits of it about, if you like, from the disoriented reader's POV, and post a suggestion on the Talk page for your consideration. I'm only too likely to produce a version choc-a-bloc with misunderstandings, but at least that might point you to specific opportunities for a reader to get things wrong.--Bishonen | Talk 10:30, 18 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Would it be possible to expand the lead section? - Ta bu shi da yu 13:21, 20 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I don't know...crafting a good lead section can be hard to do. I'll think on it; I've already reworked it a few times now, never quite to my satisfaction, though. Everyking 03:41, 21 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Very well done. My principal point of criticism is that you cite 2 articles without giving full references -- or are they articles from a collection of papers like a Festschrift? In either case, please add more bibliographical information. The rest of what I have to say I suspect you probably should leave to someone else though, Everyking:
  • Some points in this article could stand some copy editting -- I couldn't help myself & that's why made the changes in the wording of your footnotes. But this would be done best either after you've left this article alone for a few days, or asked someone else to do it. And this polishing really doesn't detract from the article.
  • Something that doesn't leap out right at the beginning, but it does linger with me after having read this once or twice is that there seems to be no attempt to explain Penda's actions. When one strips away all of the details on each battle, what is left is a rather bald narrative of "First Penda defeated the kings of Wessex, & then joined with the Welsh to defeat the Northumbrians, & then fought another battle, & then was killed by the Northumbrians." While it is risky to try to explain this king's motives (one would argue that doing so violates NPOV), making it clear that Penda started with a second-rate power (i.e. Wessex), then moved against Northumbria because it was the major power in Britain & so forth would help avoid the "& then" effect. However again, I don't know if you should do this, or leave it undone for a future editor. -- llywrch 23:29, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I cited them as best I could, I gave all the information I had, and since I was working off of direct copies I suppose I gave all the information that existed. Could you specify which references you're referring to? If you want to copyedit, go right ahead; I know people think my writing is too verbose, but I try to be as simple as I can while keeping the meaning as exact as it needs to be. So just be sure not to lose any of the meaning. As for your last point, that would be attributing some central design to Penda's ambitions—that he intentionally started with a smaller power, moved against Northumbria because it was the major power in Britain, etc. I doubt that when he fought the West Saxons in 628 (if that's indeed when it happened) he was envisioning some step by step process towards dominating his neighbors, although he may have envisioned such a process towards establishing or consolidating his power within Mercia. But in any case, all that seems much too speculative, whichever way you take it. We could perhaps cite references attributing to Penda some central design such as that. Anyway, why do you sound so leery of me editing the article myself? Everyking 12:06, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I'll take a look in my library at home to see if I have an example of what I'm talking about that applies to this period: adding a sense narrative to a biographical overview. But as I wrote above, it's not an issue that would keep me from voting for this article as a Featured Candidate, just a suggested improvement.
I'm not implying that you shouldn't make the copyedits I suggested to the article yourself, Everyking -- or make any further edits to it. I'm sorry that it came over that way, because it was not my intent. My point was, based on my experience as a writer, is that often after working on a piece for so long & so intently (as you have done) you starts to overlooking small details that need fixing, or assume that because you know what you're talking about, so does everyone else. (Here I'm using the second person in a general sense, & not directed at Everyking; I've had this problem of literary myopia, & so have other writers.) That's why I suggested that you take abreak form the article, forget about it for a while so you can go back to it with a fresh take. Or, if you want to get it considered at WP:FAC immediately, ask someone you trust here on Wikipedia to copy edit it. That was all I was saying. -- llywrch 18:25, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Well, sure, I agree with that. That's why I listed it here on peer review. Last time I went straight to FAC things didn't, uh, go so good. Anyway, can you point out what references you were talking about that you thought were lacking? The Prestwich article about Aethelhere at the Winwaed? I truly don't believe there's any more reference info that I can give for that. I got the journal, the title, the author, the page numbers, the year and month of the issue. Everyking 18:52, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Sorry about not specifying which citations, Everyking; I got distracted & forgot to add that information. (I'm writing this from work, & for some reason my employer wants me to get some nonWikipedia stuff done.) The ones I was indicating are both in footnote 1:
  • 'S. Wood, 1983: "Bede's Northumbrian dates again"'
  • 'D.P. Kirby, "Bede and Northumbrian Chronology", 1963'
It's far more useful to have citations in the extensive manner as you did with J. O. Prestwich's article in footnote 16. -- llywrch 20:37, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Oh! Yeah, I see what you mean. Well, the reason it's like that is because those are basically references for the notes, not for anything in the article proper. I could fully cite those articles, but it seemed like it might be too much if it wasn't directly referring to something in the article. I figured if it's a footnote, I better keep it short. Everyking 20:52, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Well your citation of Kirby picqued my interest, & I was curious to see whether I could track down his article. If you mention a source in an article, please provide sufficient information so an interested reader can locate it. You did that nicely with Prestwich's article. -- llywrch 05:54, 27 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I'll add the information into the article, but I'll comment it out so it doesn't weigh down the text too heavily. If you believe it should be visible to the reader, feel free to make it that way. Everyking 11:10, 27 Jan 2005 (UTC)

It's an interesting article. Some of the sections seem a little unnaturally combined ("Descent, beginning of reign, and battle with the West Saxons" isn't exactly snappy), and a picture would be great - are there any coins with an image? Otherwise, a conventional depiction would add a little colour to the article. Warofdreams 15:56, 17 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Well, they're combined because otherwise the sections would be really short. They are all loosely linked by chronology. There are no pictures to use that I know of. Everyking 16:51, 17 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Could there be some mention of the widely held belief that the penny was named after Penda? Dsmdgold 01:03, Feb 19, 2005 (UTC)

I will. I hadn't done so yet because I'm unsure of the respective merits of the arguments—I've never read anything except "some people think..." Maybe you could do better than me? Hopefully I can eventually find a good source for the issue. Everyking 02:20, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)