Looking for something to read in the inevitable queues on a couple of upcoming journeys, I took John Ramsden’s 2006 book Don’t Mention the War down from my shelf. I had glanced through it a decade or more ago when I bought it, but never read it right through. I’m glad to say that it is a terrific, easy read and I will get round to writing more about it when I finish it. But in the meantime, I want to write now about the defect in book production which pushed the footnotes out into cyberspace, and the inevitable consequences.
When I bought the book, I noticed this ominous sentence at the start of the bibliography: ‘ The note section can be found on the Internet at http://www.johnramsden-dmtw.co.uk. ‘ I recall checking this website out, and may even have downloaded the text. However, God knows where I filed it. Probably on the computer I was using then – four or five computers ago.
Little Brown’s decision was a bit unusual, even then, and seems to have led to a certain amount of discussion. Someone called Dan (who I take to be the historian Daniel Todman who was a colleague of Ramsden’s at Queen Mary) wrote on the Airminded blog that there had only been a handful of complaints. However, I reckon this misses the point.
This is because when, sadly, Ramsden died in 2009 only a year into retirement his website eventually vanished along with the link to his notes. So now all you get is an error message.
So I did a bit more Googling, this time of the website address, and came across this Twitter post from the Cambridge historian Ben Griffin:
Thanks Ben. I rushed to the Web Archive link and found Ramsden’s original post. I downloaded the notes, made them up into a PDF and printed them out. So now I have something I can at least tuck into the back of the book when I put it back on the shelf.
As to Ramsden himself, he seems to have been an intriguing man. A writer about the Conservative Party, but also an active Tory himself who had even done his time as leader of the council in the London Borough of Redbridge. There are some lovely tributes to him online, including this obituary in the Guardian by Peter Hennessy, a blog post by Bob Jones and a piece on Conservative History Journal.
So just in case the WebArchive itself goes under (unlikely I know, but you never know) as a public service I decided to post my own printable 19 page PDF of the notes (shown above) for anyone to download. If everything works OK, you should be able to get them from here: Ramsden notes
Thank you, thank you, thank you, for the pdf of the notes. Turns the book back into a scholarly production, which it surely is.