History/Research Questions

Does anyone know of sources on the demography of refugees accompanying armies on the march? Or the demography of camp followers in the wider sense of the term?

This is the best I’ve found; it focuses on the children with the armies: "Evidence of Children at Revolutionary War Sites" by Michael Cohn


So no one ever taught me good or bad research practice.

I often end up using gathering references from a lot of different sources. I don’t have the time to read every source in full, analyze its purposes, strengths, and weaknesses, etc. Although it can sometimes be very helpful to check earlier sources for specific claims, which may contradict later interpretations. I don’t always have the languages, either.

For example if I’m interested in the sizes of cities, within each urban network they are related to each other. I may be able to track down estimates of their importance, modern estimates of their area in hectares, ancient estimates of their population-- which are rarely trustworthy–, and ancient estimates of how many people were killed or captured when they were sacked, from Diodorus, Livius, etc.

I feel like I’m data-mining any sources I can get. I know I’m not closely reading the best sources I can get, or more often, can’t get because the best academic translations are too expensive.

I feel like I could screw this up.

Anyway, with a lot of unfinished projects, trying to bookmark relevant pages, process and import relevant books into my Calibre libraries, etc. I get incredibly bloated libraries and bookmark lists. Without knowing if I need to keep half of these files around. (2,285 books or articles in my main Calibre research library, and a lot which I haven’t imported from files or logged from hard copies.) I get long lists of footnotes. Without really appreciating the individual works I’ve cited.

On one hand, maybe I should focus on fewer more important references, to avoid misinterpreting things.

On the other, maybe I should keep going, to avoid throwing out good and useful data, taking advantage of computers, online archives, etc. for research that would be a lot harder before these.

On the left foot, too many bookmarks slow down my pdf reading software.


Honestly, this is the struggle of just about ANY researcher, so I feel your pain!

For me, my work tends to not be data heavy historical writing, but the problem is still very similar. How much evidence do I need to make an informed judgment that will support and shape my argument? Are my incoming assumptions being confirmed or challenged by what I’m reading? Am I seeing conflicting evidence on one particular point? Am I getting confirmation/challenge again and again?

But at some point, you do have to decide if you got enough evidence to support or challenge you and then come to conclusions. I think it really depends on the topic, which in your case seems to be more ancient history. I think if you start seeing the same things over and over from your sources, then you’re probably in a position to draw some conclusions from your data/sources. I wish I could say that there is an “ah ha!” moment, but there often isn’t. You just have to decide that you’ve got enough to get the writing done. If you don’t, you can get bogged down (it’s happened to me…).

I feel ya there, too. I think it’s important to remember that you can concentrate on what interests you in the research and what you want to say about this information you’re learning, and let other scholars fill in the gap that informs that (if that makes sense). I see it as not having to entirely reinvent the wheel, but instead finding the new aspect of the wheel that I think contributes to furthering all our knowledge… again, if that makes sense.


Thanks. I’m often picking up fragments which might be useful, but not ideal, and bookmarking and maybe importing them. But not typing them up because it may be too much work for too little point.

P.S. I wish I had a good way to take something which is interesting and would be relevant to one of my projects, and bookmark it so I can find it if and when I’m ready to work on that project again, but notso that it screws with my pdf-reading software when I’m working on other projects. So far my only solution it to type the relevant page numbers into the Calibre entry, and that can be hard to track down again.


Yeah, I know that feeling.

I’m working on a project now (book) and still think about other projects I want to do, but I do try to avoid doing any research on those other ideas, simply because I’m bad at organization at the best of times. I got to get this all done by the beginning of july to send it to my editor, so I know if I get distracted I’ll be scrambling come summer time…

Hm… maybe keep a master list of each project with citations you want to consult later? Of course, it seems like you have a software issue generally speaking, not necessarily an organization issue - though in your case, it sounds like these overlap?


Sometimes I start a project, collect sources, either run into too much trouble or get too tired. Sometimes I start a project and just stumble across a lot that’s relevant to another project. I’m not necessarily going out of my way to research some side-project, I’m just getting info.

As for writing up a list, maybe I could open the old project/side-project files, write up a placeholder, and write up the appropriate footnote for later.

Writing up a list of relevent works and page numbers would be just as demanding as writing up the footnotes.


OH, I think this happens to a lot of people doing historical research. It’s something that doesn’t fit in the current project, but it’s something intriguing that could easily be it’s own thing!

Could work!

Probably so! You could think about more ideas, but you also don’t want to end up spending all your time figuring out organizational strategies, either!


Does anyone know where to find year-by-year or month-by-month casualty data for the American Civil War?

P.S. I’ve looked at The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, (1861-65), part iii, volume i, chapter i, but it only counts disease deaths, and it expresses most figures in rates per 1,000, without totals.

Darroch Greer’s “Counting Civil War Casualties, Week-By-Week, For The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum,” seems to include the data, but it blurs the tables. So they’re hard to read, and that much harder to group. Each week is just too many figures, each month, quarter, or year would be enough.

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Well, it’s been a month, and I’ve been able to cut the 106 bookmarks to… 119 bookmarks, and I’m far far too tired to go through them and type up the relevant data.

I need some way to cut this down that cuts this down.

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Well, these are supposed to be a bunch of research tools. I won’t be able to use any of them m, but glad some people are thinking about some of these problems.

Another common recommendation is Zotero. I’m not sure exactly what it does, the website triggers migraines.

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Zotero is a reference manager. There’s a macos client and a browser plugin.

If you visit certain websites – mostly library catalogs and journal sites – you can have zotero scrape the bibliographic information into your database.


going to this site:

and pressing the zotero button yields

which is really handy if you need to cite it in a paper.


I’m already using Calibre to track citations. Of course I have to retype buggy metadata. But once that’s done, I can usually copy the relevant metadata and paste it into my footnotes and bibliography.

I’m looking for something that can keep track of bookmarks to relevant sections in pdfs, and possibly other files, that I’ve already downloaded, processed, and imported into Calibre.

I tried the demo for Pdfoo, but it has a lot of animation, and I run into errors when I try to use it. Otherwise it looks about right. I’d be able to create a project page, unfortunately in rtf instead of txt, and include links to appropriate pages in appropriate pdfs.

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If you just want to link to a specific page, you should be able to do so by adding a #page anchor to the link like so:
http://www.kentaurus.com/downloads/ip001.pdf#page=4 ← should open on page 4.


So would I use the file path on my computer?

P.S. Harder than that sounds, and no app specified for pdf#page=37

P.P.S. The standard ways to find a file path on the Mac assume you (a) have it right there in the finder, and (b) don’t mind keyboard+mouse combos. Which isn’t much of a help when you’re reading it and absolutely hate keyboard+mouse combos.

P.P.P.S. I can’t use links to open a specified file. I can use the terminal command open “” but can’t specify the page.


Oh, unfortunately that doesn’t seem to work for local files anymore. You used to be able to link to local files with a file:// protocol (instead of http://), but modern browsers don’t allow that. There used to be some workarounds, but I think they’ve eliminated those too. :frowning:

And yeah, the mac finder sucks compared to windows explorer or a typical linux file manager. A little surprised after all this time, no one at Apple has noticed, but also kind of not surprised. They always value form over function. They’ll probably never fix that.

So unfortunately my trick only works if you’re linking as in a browser/bookmark. I guess nowadays you’d have to have a local server running for them to work locally, and it would then be something like http://localhost/path/filename.pdf#page=4 but that’s probably not what you want. Sorry.


I’ve confirmed that I can open pdfs from the command line, but so far I’ve been unable to specify the page number. I’ve still been unable to do it from links embedded in rtf files.

Plan B, then.

Instead of creating bookmarks, export the relevant pages to an appropriate folder for each project. But how to ensure the excerpt files either have the relevant metadata, from Calibre, or are easy enough to trace to find the metadata?

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I’m still on Calibre 5.23, but Calibre 5.5 introduced a url scheme so that other apps should be able to link to books in the Calibre libraries.

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