Terry Jones as Historian: opinions?
I've recently watched Terry Jones' "Crusades" series, and thought it was fantastic - with the possible exception of the bit with the Speedos, but then, it's Terry Jones, you've got to expect him to strip sooner or later. :-p I found that while a clear bias on his part was visible, it was very clear what was his opinion and what was 'historical', so I thought in the end that since it was obviously his opinion and he wasn't not trying to pass it off as the only correct view, there's nothing wrong with making the judgements he did.
The whole thing was nicely done, entertaining, a great touch with the talking artworks, and he's a remarkably pleasant, nonintrusive presenter, compared with some of the posing gits out there, who spend half the screen time staring wistfully into middle distance.
*Not-so-subtly coughs the words 'Dan' and 'Snow.'*
I haven't actually read anything of Jones' yet, or watched any of his other stuff (though I think I might have seen a bit of 'Barbarians' once). I'm wondering what to go onto next, but the very mixed reviews I've read are a bit of a concern. You get people who say his (co-authored of course) books are entertaining but fundamentally inaccurate, other people who say they're brilliant, and others still who say they're one-dimensional revisionist nonsense.
So: being a historian myself with quite strong views against judging the past by the standards of the present, I wonder if any of you have read/watched Terry Jones' historical work, and what you think. I found his arguments in "Crusades" quite even, despite, as I said, the evident bias ... are his other things more forceful, or about the same?
I asked myself certain questions:
1) Am I allowing my fandom to distort my historical viewpoint?
2) I happen to agree with his views, but does that make it OK that he's judgemental? (I think it's fine to think these things, but I wouldn't personally put them on paper as history.) Is he all that judgemental, or are reviewers being overly fussy?
3) My specialism is mostly after the periods he talks about, should I read other things first so I can approach his stuff with more background knowledge?
Basically, if the only virtue of Terry Jones' historical work is that it's entertaining, I'll stick to being entertained by his comedy until I know enough about what he covers to judge his stuff from an informed perspective. I'd be a hypocrite if I said history had to be taken completely seriously, because that's not the way I feel about it ... but I still don't want to be misled. Then again, if all the criticism is just coming from right-wing bigots and intellectual snobs, I'll give it a go. I'd really appreciate some views on this!
But anyway, sorry for a long and rather serious post. On a lighter note: SPLUNGE!