I was listening to The Napoleonicist episode on Waterloo Myths, which got me to thinking to how historical myths arise and more importantly why they persist, even after the demise of the myth maker? Nature abhors a vacuum and we human beings, almost from the womb, strive to make sense and order of the world. Like sports pundits, we try to place everything in context and tell a smooth and coherent story. Now if my work as a risk manager and trainer has taught me anything it is that human endeavour the world is inherently jagged and incoherent with often disparate and seemingly unconnected factors conspiring to shape and trigger events. Our love of smoothness often leads us to ascribe cause and effect where none exist. These cognitive biases are well understood and described in the psychological literature. Some make the evolutionary connection to the survival of those who perceive a predator from partial clues. More trivially it is why we continually see the faces of prophets and saints in our toast marks or wine stains! I believe this goes a long way to explain why historical myths are generated. It could also be reasonably said that military trained minds, with their stereotypical love of structure and order, are particularly susceptible. But, I muse, why when there is often conclusive contrary evidence do they persist? I was reminded of one of my airport bookshop purchases “Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me!” by Carol Travis and Elliot Aronson. In it they investigate the reticence to free the wrongly convicted despite conclusive proof being provided by retrospective DNA analysis. I detect that many in our Napoleonic community are also unwilling to relinquish dearly held tenets in the light of contrary evidence. Indeed, much intellectual effort is expended in their defence, or the defence of the reputations of those who created or repeated them. So what can the historian (both amateur and professional) learn from these works of psychology? Well, they are aimed at assisting the modern business and management community in real time decision making. Of course, those decisions are contributing to future history, so we would do well to take them into account. The next time you find a piece of evidence that confirms your theory, or seamlessly fits into the prevailing paradigm, beware! Reality (both past and present) is inherently jagged and disjointed. If you can’t find some contrary evidence or dissonance then I would worry. Probably summed up by that old proverb, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.