I'm referring to questions like this one about whether Mozart was ever called "Wolfie" in real life, as he was in a play, or this one, about whether or not King Henry VIII was protected by nightly building of brick walls, as a TV show alleged.

These questions are reasonably sourced, from popular media, so they probably shouldn't be dismissed altogether. On the other hand, they may be a better fit for Skeptics SE, which is the SE site for True-False questions, and I would propose migrating these questions to that site.

Having to deal with the "truth" or "falsity" of a historical assertion before going into the significance places an extra burden on the site. I think that the veracity of such questions should be first established on Skeptics (or elsewhere), and then we can deal with the historical implications on this site. I fear that taking time and attention to answer these questions before this is done could detract from the site's ability to deal with real, and serious historical issues.

In closing, I would like to propose a litmus test for questions on the history site: "Would a professional historian be interested in the subject matter?" Is this a valid test, and if so, would the linked questions qualify?

2 Answers 2


Firstly, my understanding is that:

History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs.

not merely a site for professional historians. In which case, I am not sure that your proposed test is valid.

Secondly, even were we to introduce your "litmus test", I would argue (as someone who is often paid to carry out historical research, and who therefore probably qualifies as a "professional historian") that the subject matter of both questions would be of interest to professional historians - regardless of the inspiration for those questions on this site.

The first question is about whether Mozart was ever addressed by a particular pet name by his wife, Constanze. If the evidence survived, I have no doubt that professional historians would expend almost as much ink on the subject as they have on the pet names used by Winston and Clementine Churchill.

In this case, however, the answer has to do with historiography, or perhaps "how we know what we know about history". Simply put, the evidence of the letters from Clementine to Winston Churchill survive; the letters from Constanze to Mozart do not (as I pointed out in my answer). We know the pet names used for Mozart by his family, but not by his wife.

Should letters to Mozart from his wife ever turn up in an archive somewhere, I think we can be fairly certain that historians, both professional and amateur, will be interested in their contents, not least in how Constanze addresses her husband.

The second question relates to a (slightly ridiculous in my opinion) suggestion that Henry VIII of England required that the door to his chambers was bricked up each night. As you point out, the inspiration for that question is a children's history-themed television show.

However, as was also pointed out in the question (and in my answer) the reason for that particular historical assertion (I cannot bring myself to call it a "fact") being included in the show was that it stemmed from a claim by the owners of Allington Castle, and had sparked the interest of the professional historian, Greg Jenner, who acts as historical adviser to the show. Clearly, therefore, in this case the answer to the question "Would a professional historian be interested in the subject matter?" is, simply, "Yes".


"Would a professional historian be interested in the subject matter?"

I have a slightly different test. My test is "Is what I'm asking likely to be pseudo-history and/or nonsense? Would I be embarrassed or apologetic to ask a professional historian about this?"

I'd try to have all such questions on Skeptics.SE, and only ask about such questions on History.SE as a last resort. While they may be high-quality, on-topic and may receive a high-quality answer, it may bring down the tone of the site.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .