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"History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
#445782 07/23/12 5:56 am
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Napoleon said those words or something similar and they are as true today as they were back then. He was never a hero of mine but this statement shows wisdom.

And now for something totally different. Most people agree that the head of a Norton Combat engine was just a modified standard head. One famous author, who shall remain nameless for the moment, writes, "The engine...was called the Combat...The extra power came from a raised compression ratio achieved by skimming [called shaving in North America if I understand the term] the cylinder head, a hot camshaft and larger carburettors."

This is common knowledge today, so are all the "experts" on this forum in agreement? Did Norton increase the compression ratio of the Combat engine by "skimming" or shaving the head? True or false?

Keep in mind that marks will be deducted for evasive answers.

P.S. This thread is about lies in history and not just about Nortons so feel free to post information about other common lies told about British bikes.

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Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #445783 07/23/12 6:24 am
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Murray you are here just to cause mayhem with your weird 73 Combats, if you feel so strongly about it set up your own forum and enjoy talking to yourself.

Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
kommando #445784 07/23/12 7:00 am
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Hijack alert....

(Meriden) Thruxton Bonnevilles are so called because they're fitted with Thruxton camshafts, True or False?

Bob


Phatt Bob
'95 Daytona 1200
'98 Daytona 1200 dragbike
ex-850 T140 Caff Racer, 850 Triton, Morgo T120, Starfire and Pretend Daytona 500 owner
Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Phatt Bob #445790 07/23/12 8:38 am
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Originally Posted by Phatt Bob
Hijack alert....

(Meriden) Thruxton Bonnevilles are so called because they're fitted with Thruxton camshafts, True or False?

Bob


Well, Phatt Bob, first of all let me apologize for any hijacking, it was purely unitentional.

From 1970 I rode a BSA but after 75 it was a Norton Commando but I have never owned a Triumph.

Nevertheless, Triumphs were justifiablly famous for great speed and I imagine Steve McQueen owned several models for that very reason. The Triumph Thunderbird of the early fifties was already an affordable superbike capable of 100+ m.p.h. speeds so since Thruxton was an endurance race I am going to guess False because there was no need for a hotter camshaft.

Okay, no, let's hold off on that! Is this a simple test or is it right minus double wrong or some such scheme? If so, then I would like to point out that I am quite ill and the Dean should allow me to take this test later. *Cough*, *Cough*, *Wheeeze*, see what I mean?

Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #445798 07/23/12 10:50 am
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If you fit a thicker headgasket, or base gasket, you can 'unshave' a head. True or false ?

Lies in history ?
Nortons used the slogan 'The Unapproachable' for decades.
At one of the TT races in The Island (IoM), the rider of the Norton Kneeler - or 'Silver Fish'- was struggling to get on board - and an onlooker was heard to remark "This Norton really is unapproachable".
http://i.ebayimg.com/t/1953-NORTON-350-KNEELER-Sammy-Miller-Ray-Amm-PHOTO-CARD-/13/!BplssRw!mk~$(KGrHqYH-EIEu,VLdC,SBLs!DuyHH!~~_3.JPG
[Linked Image]
Factory guys were ROTFL for years afterwards over this remark...

Last edited by Morgan; 07/24/12 5:08 pm. Reason: photo
Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #445804 07/23/12 12:36 pm
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Rohan, Where did you learn how to post a photo?? I can't open it.
Is this a picture of the Manx 'Low-boy'?

According to Mick Duckworth, in his book “Norton Commando”
The power hike from the 1972 Combat engine was achieved by fitting 32mm AMAL carbs,
and modifying the ports to match.
A hotter SS cam profile and
“The compression ratio bumped up to 10:1 by machining 0.040”
of metal off the cylinder head joint face”
this way the flat top pistons could be used in both standard and high-compression engines.

Also on page 69 he states “To reduce the compression ratio, a 0.040” thick aluminium
(or aluminum) cylinder hear gasket was tried but when this proved troublesome a more
satisfactory composition gasket with eyelets surrounding it's perforations was specified.”

I think it's true
but then I also believe that men actually went to the moon

Cheers
Dennis B


Member # 182
'73 750 Commando
'72 Combat Commando
'71 Triumph Blazer
'69 Victors
'68 Starfire
'51 Royal Enfield 250 'S'

Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
#445867 07/23/12 7:15 pm
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Originally Posted by Dennis B
I think it's true

It is unfortunate that Mr. Duckworth did not use the word "skimmed" or "shaved" but it does not really matter because my source did and so have many others.

Now, let us consider what "skimming" involves. That means the head manufacturer cast the part, milled it to standard dimensons, and stored the part. Then at some later time they took the part from storage, skimmed it (milled it again) and either stored it again or sent it off for assembly.

This may have been possible or even likely if a half-dozen Combat engines were made but in reality it was at least a couple of thousand. So no, it is not believable that they did things that way. The standard practice in any casting industry would be to change the casting form once to make a high-compression head and not to mill away all that extra metal a couple of thousand times.

To claim they skimmed or shaved the head is extaordinary and requires extraordinary proof. Since there is no such proof the claim must be assumed to be false. [The "skimming" claim is actually quite insulting to those Britons that made the machines because it makes them look quite stupid for not seeing an obvious and less expensive solution.]

This error follows the standard pattern by which much of history has been corrupted. Some young fool that cannot differentiate between an exhaust port and his posterior vent writes nonsense and it gets published somehow. The idiot is then hailed as a hero and soon every other young fool copies the error.

Eventually the ever more frequently repeated nonsense becomes accepted as fact.

Originally Posted by Dennis B
but then I also believe that men actually went to the moon

It is not often that one sees a non sequitur and implied ad hominem attack in only twelve words. That is very efficient use of the language.


Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #445879 07/23/12 8:55 pm
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Originally Posted by Murray_B
That means the head manufacturer cast the part


The heads were cast by BIRCO, so at least that part can be considered factual as the castings normally bear the BIRCO trademark. So = True

Unfortunately...

That is where the known facts end....and where conjecture begins:

Originally Posted by Murray_B
...milled it to standard dimensons, and stored the part. Then at some later time they took the part from storage, skimmed it (milled it again) and either stored it again or sent it off for assembly.


Complete guesswork, unproven, nothing based on fact there at all, so: = False.


Originally Posted by Murray_B
This may have been possible or even likely if a half-dozen Combat engines were made but in reality it was at least a couple of thousand. So no, it is not believable that they did things that way. The standard practice in any casting industry would be to change the casting form once to make a high-compression head and not to mill away all that extra metal a couple of thousand times.


False. It is obvious from that statement you've never seen a Combat head or at least never compared one to a standard head or you'd know without any shadow of a doubt that a Combat head was a standard head with extra metal removed from the gasket face (and the inlet ports opened to 32mm)!



Originally Posted by Murray_B
To claim they skimmed or shaved the head is extaordinary and requires extraordinary proof. Since there is no such proof the claim must be assumed to be false. [The "skimming" claim is actually quite insulting to those Britons that made the machines because it makes them look quite stupid for not seeing an obvious and less expensive solution.


All heads were 'machined': True?

Some heads had an extra 0.042" (Combat) or 0.020" (RH6) machined ('skimmed', 'shaved' or whatever else you wish to call it) from the gasket face. True.

Do you get it now (I doubt it somehow)?

http://atlanticgreen.com/
http://atlanticgreen.com/nhth.htm

[Linked Image]

(And please. Murray, let's have no nonsense about the above date (9th July, 1973) proving the existence of a '73 Combat model!)

Last edited by L.A.B.; 07/23/12 9:33 pm.
Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Rohan #445918 07/24/12 5:19 am
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Originally Posted by Rohan
If you fit a thicker headgasket, or base gasket, you can 'unshave' a head. True or false ?

A bit of both, actually.
I sent a Trident head to a shop for valve grinding once. Dude thought he did me a favor by shaving the head. Of course, when fitted the valves barely touched the piston crowns, not enough to break anything, but enough to loosen the head bolts every ride.
In any case, I tried doubling up on the base gasket. That kept the valve contact in check. BUT, I never could find the right thickness push-rod tube seals to keep it from pissing oil out the joint with the rocker box.
Last time I EVER send British machine work to a Hogly dude!


Stepping on others doesn't make you stand tall.

71 A65L "Zelda"
92 BMW K100rs "Gustav"
72 T120V cafe project "Mr. Jim"
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Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
#445919 07/24/12 6:02 am
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Originally Posted by Steve Bruce
Murray B, have you read "Shooting Star: The Rise & Fall of the British Motorcycle Industry" by Abe Aamidor?

No, Steve Bruce, I haven't but if it does not mention the dumping of Japanese bikes below cost into British markets then it is inaccurate to begin with. When President Reagan approved the 45% tariff in '83 the Japanese had already been dumping bikes into the American market for years. The ITC did find all major Japanese manufacturers exept Suzuki were "dumping" their machines just as H-D said they were. If memory serves about a dozen other countries also discovered the same thing and added tariffs and duties similar to those in the U.S. A document with some quantities is posted at http://shelf1.library.cmu.edu/cgi-bin/tiff2pdf/heinz/box00132/fld00007/bdl0004/doc0001/heinz.pdf

Note the claim of "dumping" at prices "58% below" normal and note specifically that in "1977" the prices were as much as $737 lower (for comparison in '75 a new Commando was about $2800 in Canada). Is 1977 a significant year for the British motorcycle industry which was also trying to compete with the Japanese machines?

So, does this book you mention even discuss the primary cause of the failure of the British motorcyle industry which was the "dumping" or is it just another turd dropped by a fanboy of the Japanese machines?

As far as Norton goes I have serous doubts that they would have "skimmed" the heads on more than a few early Combat engines. There is just no way that is going to happen on a regular basis for any mass-produced engine made by any company at any time. The claim is just absurd.

1972 was an unusual year for Norton. It was the year they produced their most powerful street engine, the Combat, but it also marked the complete switch over to low-compression reduced emissions engines. These were the least powerful street Commandos made and none of them could break 13s in the quarter-mile. [It wasn't just Norton that did this because all vehicles sold in North America after late '72 had 8.5:1 compresson or less to eliminate NOx from the exhaust.] The law had killed every performance vehicle I ever loved and I will never forget this as long as I live.

By the way, the little Norton hemi absolutely dominated motorcycle drag racing in all classes from about '68 to '77. It wasn't just the "Hogslayer". The Norton was a force to be reckoned with in motorcyces about the same way the Mopar "Hemi" was with cars. Despite this, now I read the '73 Kawasaki 900 was the "world's first superbike". Sheesh, most of these so-called "historians" are complete morons!

Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #445926 07/24/12 7:36 am
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Murray posting his usual load of complete rubbish...

Somewhere recently on eBay, someone was offering a commando head raw casting "just needs machining". Looked like a large lump of anonymous metal, with some commando features just visible.
If that was the usual Commando head pre-machining, they took some serious machining ! Skimming an extra 40 thou off the face surface would have been the work of a moment, far less than doing a slight change in the patterns for the casting !! (In which case, in Nortons system, the head would have a new casting number - True or False. ?

False, obviously, Nortons stamped the head with a 'C', the casting number was the same Birco as the standard heads....

P.S. I saved the pic of the raw head casting, somewhere, will see if can locate it in my filing 'system'.

PPS. In that raw casting, it looked like they would have machined off about a half-inch of surplus metal on the cylinder head face - so taking an extra 40 thou off was insignificant in the whole scheme of things.
(IF that raw casting was typical of what Nortons began with, and not some deformed reject from the past...)

Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #445927 07/24/12 7:43 am
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I have completely forgotten how to post pics here - and can't even see anything to click to do it ?

If I highlight the link I posted, and click "open pic" it shows the Norton Kneeler (= Silver Fish) that Ray Amm tried in the mid 1950s. Getting on board was apparently a learned skill...

Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Rohan #445931 07/24/12 8:26 am
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Originally Posted by Rohan
I have completely forgotten how to post pics here - and can't even see anything to click to do it ?


If you are not a private sponsor, to show an image stored on your computer, you need to upload it to a photo Hosting website (such as Photobucket) first, then insert ('copy' and 'paste') the image IMG code into your message.


Originally Posted by Murray_B
As far as Norton goes I have serous doubts that they would have "skimmed" the heads on more than a few early Combat engines. There is just no way that is going to happen on a regular basis for any mass-produced engine made by any company at any time. The claim is just absurd.


It's your misguided idea of what "skimmed" means. The only person suggesting this operation was somehow performed twice on Combat heads is you.

Originally Posted by Murray_B
[It wasn't just Norton that did this because all vehicles sold in North America after late '72 had 8.5:1 compresson or less to eliminate NOx from the exhaust.]


Do you ever get sick of spouting complete nonsense Murray (OK I guess not), or is it that you just don't bother checking any facts or you completely disregard anything that doesn't fit in with your odd theories?

http://www.kawtriple.com/mraxl/articles/1973%20Superbikes/superbikes.htm

Quote
Ducati 750 H-D 1000 Kawasaki 750 Kawasaki 903 Norton 750 Honda 750 Trident 750
Compression 8.5:1 9.0:1 7.0:1 8.5:1 10:1 9.0:1 9.5:1

Last edited by L.A.B.; 07/24/12 9:12 am.
Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #445947 07/24/12 12:15 pm
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Sorry Rohan, my bad
no problem opening it today
that thing looks like a pumpkin seed

[Linked Image]

this is what I thought you were talking about
fuel tank was below the carb, so this had a fuel pump that was driven off the intake cam


[Linked Image]
Cheers
Dennis B


Member # 182
'73 750 Commando
'72 Combat Commando
'71 Triumph Blazer
'69 Victors
'68 Starfire
'51 Royal Enfield 250 'S'

Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #445955 07/24/12 2:02 pm
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Originally Posted by Murray_B


Napoleon said those words or something similar and they are as true today as they were back then. He was never a hero of mine but this statement shows wisdom.



Actually, no it doesn't show wisdom. I can't think that Napoleon ever did. He was was a megalomaniac emperor, feeding on the emotional frenzy of post-revolutionary France for his own aggrandizement, and if he made a statement about history of some sort, I'd consider THAT to be a lie, since he never did or said one thing that wasn't in his own imperial self-interest.

Calling everything that's ever been written a "lie" just allows one to be a permanent victim, and claim that everything is someone's "fault" .....

Lannis


Do dogs see police dogs and think "Oh no it's the cops!"?
Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #446028 07/25/12 2:50 am
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Actually I believe that the correct quote is:

"What is history but a fable agreed upon."

It does always seem to be the winners who tell the story.


Stepping on others doesn't make you stand tall.

71 A65L "Zelda"
92 BMW K100rs "Gustav"
72 T120V cafe project "Mr. Jim"
72 T150V "Wotan"
Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
#446041 07/25/12 5:53 am
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Originally Posted by Steve Bruce
Point is, I don't think you can guess and make assumptions about any manufacturing processes unless you were actually involved with the process at the time.

In a discussion about the accuracy of written history it is not valid to quote from history books as proof of their own veracity. It is circular reasoning to do so.

Prior to about '85 it was common knowledge that the production Combat head was a different part made from a completely different casting. It was not made from the standard head at all. Only later did some "historian" claim it was the standard head "skimmed". It is this latter claim that is extraordinary and requires extraordinary proof. Without that I'm going to have to assume the original version is correct and there was no "skimming".

Historical revisionists usually wait until eye witnesses are dead or so old they don't remember things clearly. That means there may no longer be a real authority on this subject able to resolve the issue. All I can do is point out the obvious flaws in the revisionist version of events for all to read and hope it helps someone to understand what really happened.

From what I have read even Bert Hopwood did not fully comprehend what was happening to the company. He seemed to put the blame on himself, bad management, and the unions but I don't remember reading anything about the "dumping" which may have been the greatest factor. Perhaps I should read the book again.

British bikes were never as bad as the creeps say today and I was not crazy to buy British when I could have bought Japanese. The British machines were a better value all around and at no time, then or since, have I ever regretted buying the BSA or the Norton. Mind you, neither of those machines was forty years old at the time of purchase either.

Anyway, both of those bikes were great motorcycles but don't get me going on the piece'O'crap '76 T'Bird car I once had because that is a completely different story. It was "environmentally friendly" but only got six miles per Canadian gallon, I kid you not! Since it was made after late '72 it also had 8.5:1 compression just like every other vehicle made around that time. 8.5:1 was as high as they could go and still meet NOx emissions requirements because NOx reducing catalysts were not yet available. It was those environmental laws that killed the American Muscle Car and the Norton Commando Combat.

Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #446051 07/25/12 7:41 am
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Prior to about '85 it was common knowledge that the production Combat head was a different part made from a completely different casting.

Could you quote your source for this fantasy comment.

Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #446075 07/25/12 12:17 pm
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Wow. [Linked Image]


A smattering:
'53 Gold Flash
'67 Royal Star
'71 Rickman Metisse
'40 Silver Star
'37 Rudge Special
sixtyseventy Lightboltrocket road racer...and many more.
Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #446085 07/25/12 1:02 pm
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Murray_B
Loc: Laughlin City, Alberta.


So where exactly is "Laughlin City", Alberta?
I can't seem to find it on any map?


Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #446092 07/25/12 2:25 pm
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My total experience with Norton is timing an ES2 in 1959 and riding an Interstate through the mountains in the 1990's. I am no Norton expert! I have neb=ver played one on TV... But Mr. Murray's comments got me thinking!

Originally Posted by Murray B
As far as Norton goes I have serous doubts that they would have "skimmed" the heads on more than a few early Combat engines. There is just no way that is going to happen on a regular basis for any mass-produced engine made by any company at any time. The claim is just absurd.


To call a Norton motorcycle, or any British motorcycle for that matter of this period, mass-produced is on its face comical. While I see figures of 60,000 to 90,000 units for Norton's total output over the years of the models (various iterations of Commando: Roadster and Interstate) in question, a similar ANNUAL production run of a single Honda model would not be considered abnormal. It is said that in 1975 Honda produced 3 million motorcycles.

Consider the Honda CB750:

" Honda's CB750 is one of the most significant production motorcycles in history for one simple reason: It changed history.

In a market previously dominated by smaller-displacement singles and twins, Honda introduced a large-displacement, transverse, air-cooled, inline four-cylinder and as suddenly the 1969 class of one. American Honda sold 400,000 units in a 10 year-run.

In 1973 sales figures soared, more than 60,000 CB750s were sold in one single year, a number that's simply unheard of in today's street bike market. "

That's in the American market, lord knows how many were sold World wide. So while Honda sold some 60,000 CB750 models in the USA in 1973, Norton probably sold 6,000 World wide.

British motorcycles were produced by hand by what we would today consider artisans. The work was done on machines that could be, at best, considered dated, if not totally worn out, and required a lot of operator input. The idea that Norton management would allow a second pattern to produce a head where an additional few thousandths were to be removed from the casting, to increase compression, seems absurd.


Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
John Healy #446094 07/25/12 2:54 pm
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Originally Posted by John Healy
Norton probably sold 6,000 World wide.


I think it would have been around double that figure-taking into account Norton's "wishy washy" model year (to use dynodave's expression)-not that an extra 6,000 or so Commandos would really make much difference. wink

Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #446098 07/25/12 3:13 pm
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When I worked at Longbridge, the orginal Austin Factory, there was a section where the high performance, special contract vehicles etc where sent after they came off the production line. Each car was treated to a seies of tests and modifications by a team of 2 or 3 workers, they had their own tools and way of doing things, for the first one of any derivative you put the extra parts in the boot and drove it down and worked with one team to work out how to put the extra parts on, once you signed it off you then left them to it for the rest. Most had served 20+ years on the production line before moving down to the shed.

They built the 6R4's and started with a shell fitted with an engine.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin_Metro#Metro_6R4_rally_car

Norton in all its locatiosn would have been much the same, professional bodgery of the superior type.

Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #446234 07/26/12 2:36 pm
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Possibly not helpful but a good friend with heading toward 40 years of British bike engineering plus working in the workshop and sales part of NZ spares supplier told me of a trip he made to the UK in the early 80s.

In the basement of one old warehouse he saw a pile of Norton heads unmachined and partially machined a couple of metres high.
I would take this as an urban legend except this guy really does know his stuff.

I think for very rule about these bikes there is as many exceptions. They were basicaly hand made on a sort of "production line". My own "Mk 11 850' from about June 1974 has at least three differences to the descriptions in published literature. And I know thats the way it came off the "production line" because I know all the bikes history.

Last edited by johnm; 07/26/12 2:52 pm.
Re: "History is a set of lies that people agree upon"
Murray_B #446292 07/26/12 11:55 pm
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Murray,

When you speak about "history" understand what you are talking about. There are 2 basic types of "history" as we in the field understand it: "popular history" and "historiography".

"Popular history" is as you can probably guess, what the general public believes about past events. "Popular history" is effected by popular culture and media. It is usually loaded with nationalistic ideals and myths. A huge example of "popular history" that I see in almost all of my students is that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. As we get farther and farther away from the event this belief will take root firmly in the collective population of America. Much like the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor or the landing of the Mayflower, 9/11 will have myths grow up around it that become beliefs central to the culture of America.

"Historiography" is the collected opinions of Historians or other social scientists and usually requires actual peer reviewed scholarship. This is what the Historians do when they aren't teaching. Historiography is not for mass consumption and usually not part of the collective mass culture of a nation. If this idea of the difference between mass appeal and scholarship is interesting, you might want to read a really decent book on the difference between "popular history" and historiography called "Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James Loewen.

BTW a really good way to introduce a controversial new theory by a Historian is to start publishing outlandish claims but you need to have the supporting evidence and craft a compelling argument to be taken seriously.

Scott

P.s. Norton was not dominant in AMA racing between 1968 and 1977. Back up some of your claims. Explain exactly how they were dominant.

P.p.s. There is so much more I want to say. Accuracy is not the goal of Historiography because no matter how hard you try you will never get 100% accuracy. It is like a crime scene. You use what is available to make an argument. The argument is never considered "correct" because events have so many different perspectives.

Last edited by OriginalScott; 07/27/12 12:01 am.
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