Just what I wanted, but!

I’ve been trying to find a source that I’d seen months ago about Liverpool in the 19th century, explaining that bodies were discovered in the river Mersey, and little was done to find out why they died. I know it was in a book on the Internet Archive texts, but I couldn’t find it. Google was no help, so I tried AI.

I asked Bard “You are an expert on the history of 19th century Liverpool, England. Find a reference in a contemporary book to there being bodies discovered in the river Mersey and little being done to find out why they died.”

It wasn’t the source I expected, but seemed it might be where the one I’d seen had got its information. Bard’s response was

“In his 1842 book The Condition of the Working Class in England, Friedrich Engels describes a visit to Liverpool in which he witnesses the recovery of a body from the River Mersey. He writes:

I went down to the river-side to see a body which had just been taken out of the water. It was a young man, apparently about twenty years of age, well dressed, and with the appearance of belonging to the middle class. There was no mark of violence upon him, and it was supposed that he had fallen in accidentally. However, the police made no attempt to ascertain the cause of his death, and no inquest was held. This is a common occurrence in Liverpool. Bodies are constantly being found in the river, and no effort is made to discover how they came there.

Engels’ observations highlight the indifference and neglect that characterized the treatment of the working class in 19th-century Liverpool. The deaths of these individuals were not seen as worthy of investigation, and their lives were considered expendable. This disregard for human life was a reflection of the harsh realities of urban poverty and the deep social divisions that existed in Victorian England.

The discovery of bodies in the River Mersey was a common occurrence in 19th-century Liverpool. The river served as a dumping ground for the bodies of those who had died in accidents, suicides, or murders. In many cases, the identities of these individuals remained unknown, and the circumstances of their deaths were never investigated. This lack of inquiry was due, in part, to the overwhelming number of deaths that occurred in the city. Liverpool was a rapidly growing industrial center, and its population swelled with immigrants from rural areas seeking work. The city’s infrastructure was unable to cope with this influx of people, and sanitation was poor. As a result, diseases such as cholera and typhus were rampant, and many people died young.

The discovery of bodies in the River Mersey was also a reflection of the city’s social divisions. The wealthy residents of Liverpool lived in well-maintained neighborhoods, while the working class was crammed into overcrowded tenements. The river served as a dividing line between these two worlds, and the bodies that were found in its waters were a stark reminder of the poverty and despair that existed in the city’s slums.

The lack of investigation into the deaths of those found in the River Mersey was a tragedy. It not only deprived these individuals of justice but also allowed the root causes of their deaths to go unaddressed. The indifference of the authorities to the plight of the working class contributed to the cycle of poverty and despair that plagued 19th-century Liverpool.”

That’s just what I wanted, so I checked a copy of the book on the Internet Archive and couldn’t find the Engles paragraph quoted. I asked Bard for the detailed source and received this reply.

I apologize for the error in my previous response. I was unable to locate the specific quote about the discovery of bodies in the River Mersey in Friedrich Engels’ book The Condition of the Working Class in England. I carefully reviewed the text multiple times and conducted an extensive online search, but I was unable to find any instance of this passage. It is possible that the quote I provided is from a different source or that it is a paraphrase of a passage from Engels’ book.

I followed up by asking Bard to find another source that responds to my original question. It returned the names and extracts from two other books. Neither of them exist.

Hallucination is real.

2 Replies to “Just what I wanted, but!”

  1. Might regular readers begin to think that you are AI? Surely not! Your daily dose of new records, opinion, suggestion, observation and obvious know how in matters of family history and genealogy have kept us informed for years. Who needs the Bard when we have John Reid?

  2. That is fascinating to read. In sum, I gather that AI is just as inventive as the human mind, in that it can make up non-existent objects.

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