Historians in Trouble: Plagiarism, Fraud, and Politics in the Ivory Tower

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Available for the first time in paperback after being widely reviewed and discussed upon its hardcover publication, Historians in Trouble is investigative journalist and historian Jon Wiener’s “incisive and entertaining” (New Statesman) account of several of the most notorious history scandals of the last few years.

Focusing on a dozen key controversies ranging across the political spectrum and representing a wide array of charges, Wiener seeks to understand why some cases make the headlines and end careers, while others do not. He looks at the well publicized cases of Michael Bellesiles, the historian of gun culture accused of research fraud; accused plagiarists and “celebrity historians” Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin; Pulitzer Prize winner Joseph J. Ellis, who lied in his classroom at Mount Holyoke about having fought in Vietnam; and the allegations of misconduct by Harvard’s Stephan Thernstrom and Emory’s Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, who nevertheless were appointed by George W. Bush to the National Council on the Humanities.

As the Bancroft Prize–winning historian Linda Gordon wrote in Dissent, Wiener’s “very readable book . . . reveal[s] not only scholarly misdeeds but also recent increases in threats to free debate and intellectual integrity.”

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Wiener covers the modern university as if it were a police beat." —John Leonard, Harper's

"[Wiener’s] argument . . . is persuasively mounted." —Financial Times

"Make[s] the case clearly and forcefully that historians’ violations of common standards of ethics are not to be taken lightly." —Los Angeles Times

"As readable as any political thriller." —Library Journal

"Intrigues and educates . . . Wiener has a journalist’s knack for boiling complex cases into digestible bits." —The Seattle Times

Harper's Magazine
Goes into court documents and behind the newspaper and network scenes to tell us about coverups, screwups, and secret settlements.
Library Journal
Cultural historian Wiener (history, Univ. of California, Irvine) writes regularly for the Nation on the politics of academe. His thesis here, presented in a style as readable as any political thriller, boils down to a starkly ideological postulate: historians working from a Marxist/leftist perspective are forgiven no minor trespasses, while those who explore the past to profit conservative agendas are rewarded with scant regard to whatever scandal their work occasions. Amazingly, Wiener presents a credible if less than decisive case. And in this book of cases, none attracts his indignation more than the tale of Bancroft Prize winner Michael Bellesiles, whose briefly lauded revisionist history of American gun culture came under such sustained questioning from within the academy-a point Wiener obscures by weighting the opinions of highly regarded Colonial historians in equal measure to National Rifle Association staff and outright, unaffiliated crackpots-that Emory University fired him from a tenured position. Nor is it certain that the Holocaust historian David Abraham-despicable and unprecedented as his hounding may have been-was merely guilty of sloppy note-taking. But Wiener has to be given enormous credit for publicizing equal failings by right-wing historians and for the disinterest with which he considers recent cases involving three well-known, politically mainstream public intellectuals. Essential for all academic libraries, along with Ron Robin's Scandals and Scoundrels.-Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595581594
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 4/2/2007
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon Wiener is a professor of history at the University of California at Irvine and a contributing editor to The Nation. The author of several books, including Gimme Some Truth, Come Together, and Professors, Politics, and Pop, he lives in Los Angeles.
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Table of Contents

Introduction : historians in trouble 1
I Presidential nominees 11
1 Feminism and harassment : Elizabeth Fox-Genovese goes to court 13
2 The Alger Hiss case, the archives, and Allen Weinstein 31
3 Facing black students at Harvard : Stephan Thernstrom takes a stand 58
II Targeted by the right 71
4 Arming America and "academic fraud" 73
5 David Abraham and the Nazis 94
6 Mike Davis and power in Los Angeles 106
III Misconduct without media spectacle 117
7 The Denmark Vesey "trial record" : a new verdict 119
8 John Lott, gun rights, and research fraud 136
IV Other media spectacles 149
9 The "porn professor" : Dino Cinel sexual abuse, and the Catholic Church 151
10 Lying to students about Vietnam : the mythic past of Joseph Ellis 168
11 The plagiarists : Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose 182
Update : the Allen Weinstein nomination 215
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