|After reading an article in the Chronicle recently (should link, but too lazy) that tested Wikipedia entries by consulting academics specializing in the area, I thought it might be fun to do something similar. So I've picked randomly out of my head (that is, by choosing the first few that came to mind) a few Renaissance English entries, and here are the results. Feel free to disagree with my assessments or my grades, and please tell me if I've failed to note any grievous errors or omissions in the entries; as I said, these were selected more or less at random, so they aren't all in my areas of specialty:|
True Law of Free Monarchies: basically factually accurate if quite brief; nice that it refers to Buchanan's De Jure Regni as an intertext, and that it notes the publishing history of reprinting in England in 1603; discussion of the actual content of the book is very limited, though, and fails to even mention the theories of non-resistance or the origins of kingship (except for a brief, and inadequate reference to the "divine right of kings," favorite phrase of undergraduates), so the contrast with Buchanan is substantively meaningless.
Master of the Revels: not a very strong entry; the balance is way off, with a lot of minutiae about the early history of the post but virtually nothing on its Elizabethan and early Stuart workings; no account of licensing or censorship, of what was likely to be censored and what was not; list of further reading includes Chambers, Clare, and Dutton but makes little or no use of their conclusions or of their debates about exactly what early modern "censorship" was.
Arminianism: a very detailed article, excellent overall; helpfully traces the Remonstrant/Counter-Remonstrant debates in the Netherlands, outlines their theological differences, and is very nuanced on the principles of Arminianism as distinguished from Pelagianism; relates Arminianism to Methodism and has a nice section on contemporary churches that espouse Arminianism; the only real problem is no reference to English pre-Civil War controversies: this is provided via a link to another article, on "Calvinist-Arminian Debate," with a section on "17th Century English Politics," but this section is rudimentary at best, failing to even mention Archbishop Laud.
Spousals de praesenti or de futuro: couldn't find any entry on the issue of spousal marriages in early modern England.
Sycorax: good, does what it needs to do; and as a bonus, informs us that the Sycorax are also the name of an alien race on Doctor Who.
I won't pretend to conclude anything based on this absurdly small sample, except to say that I think the conventional wisdom about Wikipedia--namely, that it's fine for some basic facts but not very good for larger conceptual issues--needs to be refined. The entry for Arminianism is impressive (to me, at least; any specialists in Protestant theology out there?) I gave the A to "Sycorax" but this is on a curve (ie, the grading is based on what I expect from that particular entry); it doesn't have as much to do as "Arminianism," of course. It wouldn't surprise me if Wikipedia is generally quite good on religion, since that's one of those subjects for which there will be millions of deeply invested researchers out there.
Try your own and tell us the results in comments or on your own blog (no, this is not a meme, don't worry). I'd be interested to learn if there are definable areas of early modern culture that fare better or worse than others.