Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance.1


I am so ignorant! I have lived in the village of Little Thetford for ten years. I know nothing about its history, nor its people. On the afternoon of 30 May 2010, I was surfing the web, and came across Little I resolved to send the web-master some images of mine, more as an act of self-promotion than of philanthropy. Nevertheless, it has led me through a journey of discovery which I am sharing with you now.


After sending my images, I decided to look at what Wikipedia had to say about our village. To misquote Michael Caine, “Not a lot”! In fact, it was what Wikipedia call a stub. Nothing substantial. It said:


Little Thetford is a small village near Ely in Cambridgeshire, England.”


There was a link to I chose to add more to this. I visited St George's church. I lifted a leaflet that said some interesting things about the church and sat down. I did a little web research, finding GenUK2 and a Domesday book entry3which I always thought was called Doomsday. I dug out the password for my rarely used Wikipedia account and started editing. I created three new sections. A better introduction; a stolen section from the GenUK article talking about the history of the village; and a stolen section about the church.


I sat down the following day to continue the process. I found to my horror that a Wikipedia editor or administrator had been to the page and ripped out the two stolen sections as copy-violations. This process is not going to be easy, I thought. I began reading the mountain of help information Wikipedia provides. It became clear I could not simply copy something. I had to distil and summarise information from reliable sources. Each source had to be referenced as a footnote. If other Wikipedia editors could not verify the information that I entered, it was subject to removal.


Three weeks later, I have learned a great deal. I have learned not to copy. Although I seem to remember a teacher telling me that at school many years ago. I have learned about village geology. I even rang the Cambridge University Earth Sciences dept., and had an academic check what I had written. I have learned about village history from the Bronze-age through the Middle-ages to the present time. I have met some wonderful people in the village who have help by providing information. You all know who you are! I even met the local historian.


As a Wikipedian, I have studied their manual of style. I have learned not to use peacock terms such as wonderful, exciting, and picturesque, unless it has been written down by someone, and can be referenced. For example, it really is a good job Pugh4 thought the village was picturesque from the railway, as it allows us to say so in the article! I have learned what Wikipedia term a reliable reference. Such as, one in a book, newspaper, or journal. Self-published information, which is not subjected to rigorous editing standards, is not usually acceptedthe website for example. Also, company websites are considered spam and are discouraged as references.


The article has since been through a pre-defined set of stages that all Wikipedia articles go through. It started out a stub. The status has been raised through start, then D, C & B class. It recently passed a formal review stage, and was nominated as a good article (GA class). It is currently still B-class but under GA review, where editors are reviewing and commenting on the article, requesting changes until they are happy. It will pass or fail the GA review. If it passes, it will be awarded Good-Article status and may then, one day, become a Wikipedia featured article. That will really put us on the world map for sure! Please do have a look at the Wikipedia entry for Little Thetford. The introduction is now:


“Little Thetford (pronounced /?lit(?)l '?etf??d/) is a small picturesque village 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Ely in Cambridgeshire, England. Geologically, the village is on an island surrounded by flat fenland countryside, typical for the region. The fens consisted of marshes and meres until drainage commenced, first by the Romans, and continuing to this day. There is evidence of human settlement on the island since the Bronze Age. The Old English name, l?tel Thiutforda (c. 972), suggests there was once a ford across the nearby River Great Ouse. The settlement was listed as Liteltetford in the Domesday Book.  ...”


Each Wikipedia page has a discussion page where editors talk about the page. The Little Thetford discussion page lists, among other things, work in progress and things still to do.  Please do add information. Become a Wikipedian.


Am I still ignorant? Absolutely. However, be assured that “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance”5

John McCullough writing on Wikipedia as Senra
Little Thetford, 2010

1Will Durant US historian (1885 - 1981)

2A BRIEF HISTORY OF ELY and neighbouring villages in the Isle by J.H. Clements 1868<ref>A BRIEF HISTORY OF ELY and neighbouring villages in the Isle by J.H. Clements 1868" class="smarterwiki-linkify">

3Online Doomsday Book http://www" class="smarterwiki-linkify">

4^ Pugh, R B, ed. (1953), The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Cambridge and the isle of Ely, 4, Oxford University Press, pp. 151-159


5Confusius (551-479 BC)