Your cheeky guide to the dynasty

Weirfore Art Thou, Footnotes?


Ever read one of Alison Weir’s nonfiction books on Tudor history and, though you enjoy the information, you simply cannot track where it comes from? Many of Weir’s popular works do not include the footnotes and other citations that most nonfiction books do and this has been a source of contention for me as well as others.

On a recent related Facebook page thread, Weir kindly took some time out to explain the deal to me and my followers, and gave me permission to repost the info, as it is a common concern for history fans. Take it away, Alison! …

“Regarding source notes, I must say that my publishers would not allow me to include source notes in my early books – they were then regarded as inappropriate in so-called popular history books. When that editor retired, I insisted that they should be included. Would you believe I then had people complaining that they were a distraction?

“I was told to indicate in the text where the sources came from, but that takes up a lot of text, and you cannot do it in every case. It was not a good decision, and I was unhappy about it, but the world of publishing was very different then, and a new author doesn’t have much clout.

“Since 1998 I have included notes and references in all my books, and I am now rewriting The Six Wives of Henry VIII and restoring all the notes and references, which I still have. But because of my editor’s rule, I did not compile lists of references for the other early books, and my huge files of research notes were discarded in the course of several house moves, which is something I have had cause to regret. I owe a lot to my first editor, but I have been blamed personally for the lack of references when in fact it was something beyond my control. After she retired, I insisted that they be included in the future, and my presentย editor supported me.”

I thought it would be a good idea to present this, for the record, and I thank Alison again for her participation and time!


  Anne Barnhill wrote @

How well I know the powerlessness of the writer in the book process! Thank you to Alison for this information and for the wonderful books! I love her work, both fiction and nonfiction!

  Lois wrote @

Very interesting… I always like a good footnote! I find it interesting and useful to have good notes at the back, I can’t imagine how it could be anything else!

  James Peacock (@James8633) wrote @

Alison really is fantastic, how many other historians would come out and say this? None! Alison is not afraid to admit where things may need improving and that i believe it what makes her a great historian!

  mfantaliswrites wrote @

I know you’ve been critical of her in the past, and I appreciate both her response to your criticism and your fairness in posting that response. Plus, I love getting this look behind the scenes of publishing. It’s a shame we didn’t have those notes which would have been so helpful to all of us.

  Melissa wrote @

Thank you both for this! So often people tend to take frustrations that should be directed towards editors and publishers out on the writer!

  Claire Ridgway wrote @

But neither the Mary Boleyn Book or The Lady in the Tower (both recent) have full referencing, they just say “L&P” or give an author name with no page number. It makes it tricky for researchers to check sources as L&P, for example, has many volumes.

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