Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Amusing Discovery

Last night, I attended the start of the semester meeting of the new Department of Culture, History, and Political Science into which history faculty have been merged.  The college hired the new department chair out of Ohio -- and the Bellesiles matter came up when we were discussing the U.S. History texts that we use for the survey class.

It turns out that our new chair received his Ph.D. from Emory University, and was actually there at the time the scandal came up, so he knew who I was, and the part I played in the Bellesiles downfall.  He was also a student of Bellesiles at one point, and found it amusing that Bellesiles made a big point in that class of discussing the problems of fraud by historians -- cases where historians had falsified sources.  And this was about the time that Bellesiles was producing the Arming America fraud!


  1. I always thought that to be a genuine "expert" that you have to not ONLY be able to "do" the subject matter, and not ONLY study and analyze the subject matter, but have to combine the two.

    So I guess Bellisles was working on being an expert at fraud. Luckily he was not so good at it.

    Unfortunately, had his book been left to the "professional" experts, he would have been good enough to succeed.

  2. That's among the more hilarious of "its a small world" stories.

    As an aside, I enjoyed your contribution alongside me in PJmedia Lifestyle my friend. ;-)

  3. A classic case of projection, don't you think?

  4. I think Eric nails it. Think of all the reformed hackers who get jobs after prison with computer companies, or Frank Abagnale whose check forging career, immortalized as "Catch Me If You Can", morphed into a check anti-forging and security career.

  5. I teach the Bellesiles incident in my class for research methods. My purpose it to show how historians use primary sources to form hyposthesis and draw conclusions, but also with the warning that hisotrians are human and need to guard against our conscious or unconscious biases. I give them sample of an article that reviewed the case from WMQ, then talk about the various cool techniques Bellesiles used to get insight into the era....but the dangers of misinterpretation, bias, or even the temptation to slant information to prove a point. It is always an interesting discussion. I also mention the bias against information that creeps in from "the pajama's media."