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Starting with historical research on chess

Last updated on 2023-09-20

When I became interested in the life of Paul Morphy, I had never made any historical research.

I started to go through websites, to download a lot of PDF files (old books, magazines or newspapers available online). I read a lot of interesting information… but soon realized that I was unable to remember what I read, where I found it, how to compile it.

How can I organize my readings to make them useful ?

I aslo quickly realized that I was trapped in a never ending loop.

I wanted to learn about Paul Morphy. That sounds easy. After all, he only lived 47 years. But who were his parents ? Where did they come from ? Who was Ernest Morphy ? Can I find some interesting facts about his mother ? His brother ? His sisters ?

In 1857, Paul Morphy won the First American Chess Congress. The book of the congress, available online, is a fascinating reading. What about the history of the players ? And what about the rules at that time, the time control…

In 1858 – 1859, Paul Morphy travelled to Europe. By the way, how did you go to Europe at that time ?

In Europe, Morphy played against some of the most notorious English, French and German players. I could read a lot of information about all these players.

Paul Morphy may have also met the French Emperor Napoleon III and Queen Victoria. What about the history of Europe in the first half of the 19th century ?

All these topics are interesting and could lead to further readings and questions… It basically leads to the king of spiral illustrated in the picture at the top of this post.

So where should I stop ? How to put the history of Paul Morphy inside enough historical context without following an infinite number of ideas ?

To this last question, my answer is basically the following: I try to read as far as I find it interesting, and I use the material as far as I think my readers will find it interesting.

The answer to the first question, how I organize my work, will be given in a future post.

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