The Year When We Got Caught





Mr. Luker, an Atlanta historian, is co-editor of the first two volumes of The Papers of Martin Luther King.

Frankly, it’s been a dreadful year for historians -- the year when we got caught. It wasn’t the year when we first erred. Like Trent Lott, we had been doing it for years. It wasn’t even as though anything we did was unprecedented. All of us who were tagged in 2002 were benched for doing, writing, or saying things we’d seen others do, sometimes much better than we did. Yet, more of us seemed to get caught doing them -- some of us rather spectacularly -- than at any time in recent memory.

The year began with a hangover from 2001 when one of us was called to account for pretending to be something that he was not. For whatever reason, Joseph Ellis led his students to believe that he had seen active combat duty in the Viet Nam War, when he had not. One can imagine how the effort to engage students’ attention by a dramatic classroom performance might hold the seeds of an affected persona. It is harder to imagine why one would allow the pretense to build and grow over a long and distinguished academic career. For his offense, some of Ellis’s academic colleagues said he should be barred from the classroom for life. He was suspended for a year, but surely there are better examples of charlatans and fakers in the professorate than Joe Ellis could ever pretend to be.

The Ellis "scandal" reminds me of Will Herberg, the greatest teacher I’ve ever known. Herberg had an encyclopedic mind and was always ready to slug it out with all intellectual challengers. Yet, his academic credentials were wholly fabricated and he lied repeatedly about his age so he would not be forced to retire. In his last years, Herberg carried in his jacket a clipping of Confucius's epitaph: "He is this sort of man: so intent upon teaching those eager for knowledge that he forgets to eat, so happy in doing so that he forgets his sorrows and does not realize that old age is creeping up on him." (Lun Yu, Analects 7/18) I don’t recommend that candidates for academic positions misrepresent themselves, but may the tribe of devoted teachers increase!

Some historians will recall 2002 as the year of the plagiarist. Stephen Ambrose, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Louis Roberts were accused of using other people’s words without properly citing their source or sources. Roberts has stepped down as chair of the classics department at SUNY, Albany. Because they did not hold academic positions at scandal time, Ambrose and Kearns Goodwin did not face similar consequences. Ambrose has subsequently died and Kearns Goodwin struggles to re-establish her public reputation. Their editors at Simon and Schuster have kept Ambrose’s books in print, paid damages in a settlement of earlier charges against one of Kearns Goodwin’s books and will publish a corrected edition of it this spring.

Historians who seize a popular market can survive without academic positions. They face enormous pressure and temptation, however, to produce at a rate which may undermine their commitment to usual expectations of recognizing the property rights of others. Among recently popular American historians, Alex Haley’s is the most egregious example. His Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1976) appeared to great fanfare at the bicentennial. An historical novel, which invited acceptance as history, it is the story of Haley’s family origins in West Africa, its experience in slavery and its subsequent history. Like books by Ambrose and Kearns Goodwin, it was a Pulitzer Prize-winning best seller. Roots had even greater impact as a gripping television miniseries. Broadcast in January and February 1977 by ABC television, it claimed an audience of 130,000,000 people and stimulated enormous interest in African American history. In 1977, however, Margaret Walker sued Haley for plagiarism from her novel, Jubilee. Her case was dismissed. Subsequently, however, he settled out of court for $650,000 with novelist Harold Courlander, who alleged that passages in Roots were taken from Courlander’s The African. By 1981, professional historians were challenging its genealogical and historical reliability. Haley admitted that Roots was a combination of fact and fiction. A third law suit for plagiarism was filed in 1989 by Emma Lee Davis Paul. For a popular audience, the symbolic significance of Roots's linkage of the African American experience to African origins is still important and Doubleday keeps the book in print.

If it isn’t the year of the plagiarist, it is the year Bellesiles. As late as a year ago, I suspect, most professional historians were ready to circle the wagons to defend civilized scholarship against the onslaught of gun-hugging barbarians. It turned out otherwise. The gun huggers basically had the evidence on their side and the barbarian was one of us. Let this be said in his defense: so far as I know, Michael Bellesiles is innocent of plagiarism. Fabrication of sources and misinterpretation of evidence, however, are serious matters and seem by now adequately documented. Bellesiles has received the most serious consequences of all the historians touched by scandal this year: he lost a tenured professorship. Sponsors of the Bancroft Prize created precedent to revoke the award to Arming America. Those who award Pulitzer Prizes have not followed that example in the cases of Ambrose, Haley, or Kearns Goodwin.

The case of Stanley Walter Poulshock is cited as the most likely precedent for the scale of Bellesiles’s offenses. Poulshock’s dissertation appeared as a book, The Two Parties and the Tariff in the 1880s, by Syracuse University Press in 1965. Subsequently, a fellow historian, Jerome Sternstein, discovered that Poulshock had fabricated much of his evidence and misinterpreted some of the remainder. All of the deception was crafted to support the author’s thesis and Poulshock resigned from his academic position. The comparison breaks down there, however. There was no great public controversy about the matter, the book had won no widespread recognition and its publisher quietly withdrew it from the market. Today, it is found on the shelves of about 100 libraries across the country. You can buy a fine, first edition copy of it, however, for $50 from a used book dealer in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

If the dividing line on revoking prizes pits the Bancroft precedent against the Pulitzer examples, the dividing line on withdrawing books from publication seems to fall along the academic press/commercial press fault line. Except for Simon and Schuster’s promise to withdraw a flawed edition of Kearns Goodwin’s The Fitzgeraldsand the Kennedys and publish a corrected edition, Doubleday and Simon and Schuster have stood by their authors, regardless of all charges against them. By contrast, Syracuse University Press withdrew Poulshock’s book in the 1960s and the University of North Carolina Press recently withdrew Edward A. Pearson’s flawed Designs Against Charleston. If that dividing line holds, the fate of Bellesiles’s and Alfred A. Knopf’s Arming America will be determined by the market.

It’s been a dreadful year for historians, individually and collectively. Press accounts of the Brooklyn College history department’s denial of tenure to Robert "KC" Johnson present powerful evidence that the place is a snake pit. Fortunately, 2003 is just around the corner. Anticipating it, here are some New Year’s Resolutions for historians:

... I will not pretend to be someone other than who I am.

... I will not use other people’s language or ideas without proper attribution.

... I will not fabricate or misinterpret evidence, no matter how intriguing my thesis is.

... Even when my colleagues are hissing and biting, I will try to be less of a snake.


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Jerry Brennan - 1/6/2003

I would offer an alternate suggestion to those who seem to be attempting to engage Ralph Luker in discussions of historical evidence, and/or processes of ascertaining, and communicating, occurrences of misrepresentation of historical evidence: give yourselves a break.

James Lindgren has expressed some of what he has inferred from Mr. Luker's article, and has also suggested some form of approbation of some aspect(s) of Ralph's language and/or manner of conducting discourse.

I would caution, however, that the language of the article is open to additional inferences, including, for examples, that Mr. Lindgren is a gun hugger, if not a gun-hugging barbarian, that Bellesiles is a barbarian, that misinterpretation of evidence is a more serious matter than misrepresentation of evidence, and that losing a tenured professorship is a more serious consequence than dying of cancer.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/5/2003

More yaddita-yaddita, Mr. Williams? You'd vote in favor of a resolution supporting harrassment of Bellesiles? You have _one_ legitimate grievance: the _JAH_'s non-response to the _Arming America_ controversy. The court of appeal for that grievance is the current editor of the _JAH_. Increasingly, the contrast between the _JAH_'s non-response and, say, the _Wm & Mary Quarterly_'s initiative in re _Arming America_ is embarrassing. But unless and until you take your grievance to the current editor of the _JAH_, you're just beating your keyboard to no avail. I've told you that several times here. You don't seem to learn from what I tell you.


Don Williams - 1/5/2003

1) The editorial staff at the Journal of American History were not the ones who decided to give Mr Bellesiles the BINKLEY-STEPHENSON Award ,were they?? See http://www.oah.org/activities/awards/binkleystephenson/index.html. Any idea who was
on the Committee in 1997?

2) The front page of the Journal of American History explicitly states that the Journal “is
published quarterly by the Organization of American Historians.” On page 2 , the Editor,
Associate Editor, and Assistant Editor are listed and appear to be professors at Indiana University. The list of Contributing Editors and Editorial Board names professors at various universities. The current officials, of course, were not necessarily the officials serving in 1996-1997 (when Bellesiles’ initial article was published) or in 2001 (when Arming America was reviewed.) The point being that JAH is run by members of the history profession, not by some lowly ink-stained publisher who majored in English.

3) Looking at the fine print on page 1 on the JAH, I see the disclaimer “The Organization of American Historians disclaims responsibility for statements, whether of fact or of
opinion, made by contributors.” How convenient. So much for the much vaunted
“peer review” of the history profession.

4) Wasn't it members of OAH who voted in favor of the resolution condemning alleged harrassment? Did anyone ask for any evidence that such harrassment of Bellesiles, in fact, had occurred -- or was the dangerous,vicious, and sinister nature of gun owners accepted as established fact?


James Lindgren - 1/5/2003

I find this discussion kind of odd. Ralph Luker has gradually come around to a view of the Bellesiles matter generally consistent with most academic critics who found serious problems in Arming America. In the article above, Luker writes about Bellesiles: "Fabrication of sources . . . seem[s] by now adequately documented."

By saying this, he goes further than many public critics of Bellesiles have--indeed further than I have been willing to go in print. That Luker is unwilling to use the plainer and rougher language on this list reflects who he is (Ralph, is the rumor that you are a minister true?) and the manner in which he usually conducts discourse--a restraint that I, for one, find admirable.

For one historian to say of another that the evidence is adequately documented that he fabricated sources is quite a strong statement to make. At some point, some of Ralph's critics on this list should be willing to take YES for an answer. Luker is saying that the evidence shows that Bellesiles fabricated sources. That is an extraordinarily serious charge. You might give Ralph a break.

That Ralph is unwilling to take the next step and see some larger interpretation of the facts of the case as part of some anti-gun conspiracy is hardly surprising. Very few critics of Bellesiles would agree with such an overt conspiracy to influence the law.

James Lindgren
Northwestern University


Ralph E. Luker - 1/4/2003

I agree with Williams about the credit due to Cramer and Lindgren. In response to the other yaddita-yaddita in this post, however, two observations:
1) John William Ward's _Andrew Jackson_ is a great book in its own right -- whatever errors it may make in the reconstruction of the role of the militia in the Battle of New Orleans. That isn't what the book is _essentially_ about. And
2) If my understanding of Foucault's sexual orientation is correct, I suspect that, far from acting aggressively vis-a-vis history's wide spread legs, he would have been utterly revolted by the "foul-smelling result" of "her spread legs."


Ralph E. Luker - 1/4/2003

Ah, Mr. Williams, this clarifies things a bit. Your grievance is with the _Journal of American History_, rather than its sponsoring Organization of American Historians. I agree with you that we have yet to hear and that we should hear from its editor about its responsibility in the Bellesiles matter.


Don Williams - 1/4/2003

forcing the history profession to examine Arming America. If not for their unpaid work (probably hundreds to thousands of unpaid personal time??), Arming America would probably never have been exposed.

Mr Luker may speak of historians correcting errors over the decades but that is demonstrably false. Bellesiles' description of the militia's role in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans is utter bullshit but, in his defense, is supported by frequent references to John William Ward's 1955 book “Andrew Jackson: Symbol for an Age” -- a text that is equally full of bullshit as can be seen by looking at the accounts of Andrew Jackson and Andrew Jackson's chief engineer at the Battle (Arsene Latour). See http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=h-oieahc&month=0207&week=c&msg=PkrdkLRPluSObiMgdhAKPw&user=&pw= .

Indeed, One of Bellesiles' more endearing traits is his uncanny--and hilarious-- ability to dig up major bloopers by history's big names and use them to support a false thesis. Given Babits recent account of the Battle of Cowpens, Don Higginbotham must squirm when Bellesiles cites Higginbothams 1961 account of that battle.

Ward's canonical book probably created the tradition in American History of disguising fiction/poor research/muddle-headed speculation/psychological crypto-speak by wrapping the foul-smelling results up in a wrapper called "American Studies". Foucault may have seduced American History but Ward shows she already had her legs spread.

The Barnes and Noble history section is neither broad nor deep --yet I saw Ward's 1955 book on sale there recently -- no doubt still being used to hookwink another generation of undergraduates just as Arming America will be used over the next 100 years. This may explain why politically correct professional historians are reluctant to debunk any more of Arming America than that section which has already been publicly demolished by Lindgren.




Thomas Gunn - 1/4/2003


01-04-2003 ~1300

Ralph, Don,

What was the impetus that finally got ARMING AMERICA the peer review it so richly deserved? Lacking that impetus would the truth have ever been revealed?


thomas


Don Williams - 1/4/2003

" My profession provides the memory of the past and therefore is the means by which national leaders chart the future and try to avoid the death, destruction, and chaos that has destroyed so many past prosperous and secure nations. The lives of millions rest on a committment to truth.

Therefore I will clearly distinguish between historical facts, my interpretation of those facts, and arguments for particular policies. Deliberate sophistry is my ancient enemy and I will attack it relentlessly whenever it appears."


Don Williams - 1/4/2003

"I will strongly defend the integrity of my profession. My profession has a tradition of unyielding devotion to determining objective truth -- a tradition which stretchs back to Herodotus. I will fight for and protect that tradition. "


Don Williams - 1/4/2003

beyond the probate studies. In his Chicago Kent article (http://www.saf.org/LawReviews/RakoveChicago.htm ), Rakove spoke of interpreting the Second Amendment within it's historical context:

"The behavioral context is most clearly associated with the work of Michael Bellesiles, which will doubtless attract substantial notice and scrutiny. Probing beyond the hackneyed paeans to American sharpshooting that occur both in the primary sources (some of them clearly contrived for European eyes)[143] and in later writings, Bellesiles is evidently the first historian to examine the actual use of firearms in the colonial, Revolutionary, and post-Revolutionary eras.[144] What he discovers, among other things, is that many, perhaps the majority of American households, did not possess firearms; that Americans imported virtually all of their firearms; that the weapons they had were likely to deteriorate rapidly, firearms being delicate mechanisms, prone to rust and disrepair; that gunsmiths were few, far between, and not especially skilled; that the militia were poorly armed and trained, their occasional drilling days an occasion for carousing rather than acquiring the military art; that Americans had little use for hunting, it being much more efficient to slaughter your favorite mammal grazing in the neighboring pasture or foraging in nearby woods than to take the time to track some attractive haunch of venison with a weapon that would be difficult to load, aim, and fire before the fleshy object of your desire went bounding off for greener pastures. (Trapping was much more efficient than hunting, and hunting was a leisure activity for the elite.)[145] All of these considerations make plausible and explicable the concerns we have already noted in describing the Virginia ratification debate of mid-June 1788: that without a national government firmly committed to the support of the militia, the institution would wither away from inefficiency, indifference, and neglect (which is pretty much what happened in any case, for reasons both Federalists and Antifederalists readily foresaw). Americans of all political persuasions could pay rhetorical lip service to the value of an armed citizenry, because that [Page 155] sentiment was embedded in the traditions that the individual right interpretation celebrates; but the reality was quite otherwise.[146]"

Notice that the Emory Investigation did not address the historical validity of the above findings by Bellesiles -- perhaps OAH could examine whether they are supported by the evidence in the primary sources?


Thomas Gunn - 1/4/2003


01-04-2003 ~1110

Ralph,

You've accused me of always turning the discussion to Michael, which is probably close to the truth. You can't now claim that I am accusing you of "running away from" the problems that have beset the profession.

You've also made it clear you are unwilling to discuss or debate the substance of Michaels's book and wimp out with, "I don't think that your mind is very open on that score, so what's the point of arguing about it?" But that doesn't stop you from attacking the critics of ARMING AMERICA. You've never argued about IT! Here's your chance! Did Michael include one source, one reference which disputed his thesis? Certainly there must be at least one. Isn't it Michael's claim that the universally held belief that guns were ubiquitous antebellum is erroneous? That belief must have been based on something. Where did that belief originate, and where is the cite to the source?

Engage Ralph! I'm not from Missouri, but I am close by: Show me Michael's claims are not spurious. Even if my mind is closed to the possibility, William's mind isn't, show him.



tg


Don Williams - 1/4/2003

(a) Garry Wills, who introduced Arming America to the US voters via a glowing review in the New York Times
(b) Carl T Bogus who did same in The American Prospect
(c) Morgan, who did same in The New York Review of Books
(d) Jack Rakove who seems to have been somewhat of a mentor to Bellesiles (see my post below)
(e) The other historians who cited Bellesiles in their
Constitutional Commentary , Chicago Kent, and Yassky Brief

I see understand the difficulty the above would have in criticizing Arming America's errors -- although I think they should at least acknowledge that errors exist. What's surprising to me is that the above seemed similarly disengaged from defense of areas where Bellesiles might be right.


Don Williams - 1/4/2003

In the post above, you argue: "The Organization of American Historians has no inherent obligation to arbitrate what is true and what is not true (we cannot both complain about pc monitors and concurrently demand that their judgments be imposed on us). Your accusation that "the profession" or the OAH is guilty of collusion in prejudicing legal judgments is ludicrous "

My accusation is not ludicrous -- you yourself acknowledge that the Emory's "process" has reached a very negative judgement about Bellesiles' approach to scholarship.

Yet You seem to deliberately ignore my points above re how the
Organization of American Historians (OAH) was directly responsible for ensuring that Bellesiles' questionable history was deeply interwoven into the legal argument in US vs Emerson (Fifth Circuit) and Silveira v. Lockyer (Ninth Circuit).

Again, it was the OAH which gave Bellesiles' narrative it's initial credibility by choosing to publish it in the 1996 OAH's Journal of American History(JAH). My understanding is that it was the OAH which then allegedly suppressed Clayton Cramer's rebuttal of Bellesiles' article (by not publishing it in JAH) and which gave Bellesiles' article the Binkley-Stephenson Award (see
http://www.oah.org/activities/awards/binkleystephenson/winners.html )

These events led to Bellesiles' receiving the prestigious fellowship to Stanford's Humanities Center --where he wrote Arming America. When Arming America was released , the OAH chose Roger Lane to review it (whose only qualification seems to me to have been an inclination to favor a fellow colleague in "Violence Studies" discipline) OAH then published what I consider Lanes' glowing puff piece in the JAH. (See http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=h-oieahc&month=0206&week=c&msg=umI0VTNGvF%2bhn4r/TG2NJA&user=&pw= )

I think the above led to Bellesiles' becoming gun control's darling -- to his invitations to present talks at Handgun Control's Symposium, to do a Constitutional Commentary article, to do an article for the Chicago-Kent Symposium, and to extensive citations of his works by others in articles which are the primary gun-control arguments in the Fifth and Ninth Circuit cases. See again my HNN article at http://historynewsnetwork.org/articles/article.html?id=741 .

Finally, the OAH published Bellesiles' letter to his critics in
its November 2001 newsletter. Both the letter and the associated OAH resolution supporting Bellesiles were, in my opinion, a smear on gun rights advocates. Did OAH even check to see if Bellesiles' claims of harrassment were substantiated --e.g., by seeing if he had filed a report to the police?? See
http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2001nov/bellesiles.html )

Your suggestion that I petition the OAH seems hilarious --given the reception that Clayton Cramer received, what can I expect?
In your OAH newsletter article, how did you characterize me and other interlocutors here at HNN to OAH members?

"Early on, I told friends that the quality of the debate was not high, ranging somewhere between a dreary faculty meeting and the Jerry Springer Show. " (http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2002aug/luker.html )

On the other hand, you yourself have standing in the historical profession and within OAH. If you took my defense and criticisms of Bellesiles -- and my explanation of OAH's responsibility to clear the historical record -- to the OAH membership, then they
would certainly give YOU a fair hearing.

If you yourself don't feel that Bellesiles deserves a fair trial -- and that OAH has a responsibility to Timothy Emerson to clear up the truth of the history in the Ninth and Fifth Circuit's case files -- then why should I expect any other professional historian to care?

(Note: I inadvertently posted a duplicate of this message in the middle of the thread below)


Don Williams - 1/4/2003

In the post above, you argue: "The Organization of American Historians has no inherent obligation to arbitrate what is true and what is not true (we cannot both complain about pc monitors and concurrently demand that their judgments be imposed on us). Your accusation that "the profession" or the OAH is guilty of collusion in prejudicing legal judgments is ludicrous "

My accusation is not ludicrous -- you yourself acknowledge that the Emory's "process" has reached a very negative judgement about Bellesiles' approach to scholarship.

Yet You seem to deliberately ignore my points above re how the
Organization of American Historians (OAH) was directly responsible for ensuring that Bellesiles' questionable history was deeply interwoven into the legal argument in US vs Emerson (Fifth Circuit) and Silveira v. Lockyer (Ninth Circuit).

Again, it was the OAH which gave Bellesiles' narrative it's initial credibility by choosing to publish it in the 1996 OAH's Journal of American History(JAH). My understanding is that it was the OAH which then allegedly suppressed Clayton Cramer's rebuttal of Bellesiles' article (by not publishing it in JAH) and which gave Bellesiles' article the Binkley-Stephenson Award (see
http://www.oah.org/activities/awards/binkleystephenson/winners.html )

These events led to Bellesiles' receiving the prestigious fellowship to Stanford's Humanities Center --where he wrote Arming America. When Arming America was released , the OAH chose Roger Lane to review it (whose only qualification seems to me to have been an inclination to favor a fellow colleague in "Violence Studies" discipline) OAH then published what I consider Lanes' glowing puff piece in the JAH. (See http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=h-oieahc&month=0206&week=c&msg=umI0VTNGvF%2bhn4r/TG2NJA&user=&pw= )

I think the above led to Bellesiles' becoming gun control's darling -- to his invitations to present talks at Handgun Control's Symposium, to do a Constitutional Commentary article, to do an article for the Chicago-Kent Symposium, and to extensive citations of his works by others in articles which are the primary gun-control arguments in the Fifth and Ninth Circuit cases. See again my HNN article at http://historynewsnetwork.org/articles/article.html?id=741 .

Finally, the OAH published Bellesiles' letter to his critics in
its November 2001 newsletter. Both the letter and the associated OAH resolution supporting Bellesiles were, in my opinion, a smear on gun rights advocates. Did OAH even check to see if Bellesiles' claims of harrassment were substantiated --e.g., by seeing if he had filed a report to the police?? See
http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2001nov/bellesiles.html )

Your suggestion that I petition the OAH seems hilarious --given the reception that Clayton Cramer received, what can I expect?
In your OAH newsletter article, how did you characterize me and other interlocutors here at HNN to OAH members?

"Early on, I told friends that the quality of the debate was not high, ranging somewhere between a dreary faculty meeting and the Jerry Springer Show. " (http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2002aug/luker.html )

On the other hand, you yourself have standing in the historical profession and within OAH. If you took my defense and criticisms of Bellesiles -- and my explanation of OAH's responsibility to clear the historical record -- to the OAH membership, then they
would certainly give YOU a fair hearing.

If you yourself don't feel that Bellesiles deserves a fair trial -- and that OAH has a responsibility to Timothy Emerson to clear up the truth of the history in the Ninth and Fifth Circuit's case files -- then why should I expect any other professional historian to care?





Ralph E. Luker - 1/4/2003

Thomas,
If, as you say, Michael's claims are "spurious" then that settles the discussion of "the truth" of the matter. Doesn't it?
I don't have anything substantial to add to the evidence in the case. There may be, as Williams suggests, additional evidence that would weigh in Michael's favor, but I don't think that your mind is very open on that score, so what's the point of arguing about it?
The article wasn't simply or only about Bellesiles, it was about the condition of the profession as reflected in a year of its difficulties. I write about them and you accuse me of running away from them!


Thomas Gunn - 1/4/2003


01-04-2003 ~1000

Ralph,

I guess when you wrote the above article you really didn't want to talk about, "you know who".

We could talk about ARMING AMERICA,/i> but you don't want to talk about that either. Especially since my, "adjective settles the noun's case".

We could talk about Don Williams, he, "at least, acknowledges room for debate about the details", but you didn't engage with him and you steadfastly refuse to discuss the details with anyone else.

Maybe you can provide some insight into why, though you have been uninvolved in the 'soap opera' that is ARMING AMERICA,/i>, your name appears so frequently as the author of articles and posts discussing same.


thomas




Ralph E. Luker - 1/4/2003

Thomas,
I'm sitting right here talking to you. Not running. Not looking for cover. Not "deeply involved" in any "soap opera." It's just that no matter what I do write about, some people I know make the conversation into one about you know who. I can talk about you know who if you want to, but we could talk about other things, as well. Why would anyone bother informing themselves about "the truth about some of Michael's spurious claims" -- when your adjective settles the noun's case? Williams, at least, acknowledges room for debate about the details.


Thomas Gunn - 1/4/2003



01-03-2003 ~1930

Ralph,

You've asked, "Who is "running for cover?" Mr. Williams. Let us have the names of all these professional cowards." Damn Ralph, a case could be made you're one.

You are id'd here at HNN as a professional historian, I've looked you up on the web, you are currently involved in 'historical research' on MLK, and you are deeply involved in the Bellesiles 'soap opera'.

You have had ample opportunity to spend a few minutes researching ARMING AMERICA and steadfastly refuse. You are/were in a position to know the truth of some of Michael's spurious claims by virtue of your proximity to Emory, yet you remain deliberately obtuse.

You plead at the bar of public opinion all the while refusing to view the evidence. Yeah, a case could be made that you are one of the professional cowards running for cover. I would never accuse you though Ralph, I'll wait for the jury of your peers.


thomas


Ralph E. Luker - 1/3/2003

Who is "running for cover?" Mr. Williams. Let us have the names of all these professional cowards.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/3/2003

Mr. Williams,
I am not averting my eyes from anything. The Organization of American Historians has no inherent obligation to arbitrate what is true and what is not true (we cannot both complain about pc monitors and concurrently demand that their judgments be imposed on us). Your accusation that "the profession" or the OAH is guilty of collusion in prejudicing legal judgments is ludicrous. If you have a professional complaint against Bellesiles or against the consequences he has faced, you can initiate it with the OAH or, more likely, the AHA. As I have told you repeatedly, like our secular courts, those agencies do not initiate claims. If you have a complaint, make it there. Doing so here is just beating your gums.


Don Williams - 1/3/2003

and that that defense was not made by his erstwhile ideological allies suggests to me that said allies are more focused on fleeing for cover than on discovering "truth" -- even if
Bellesiles gets thrown to the wolves.


Don Williams - 1/3/2003

your ability to avert your eyes from unpleasant aspects of reality.

In my earlier post, I did not state that OAH was obligated to prove Bellesiles wrong in every point. I stated that OAH was obligated to show "where Bellesiles was wrong, where he was right, and where he was partially right. "

I have my opinion re the Second Amendment but policy can not be based on a lie -- if Bellesiles has a truthful view on some aspects of history, we are obliged to acknowledge that. Where his narrative is contradicted by the evidence, we are obliged to acknowledge that also. Where he may have made an honest mistake but may be right for a narrow set of circumstances, we are obliged to acknowledge that as well --after all, my evaluation of his probate study suggests he might, repeat might, have been treated unfairly by the Emory Investigation on this specific issue.

When Thomas Jefferson founded my University, he said: "For here we are not afraid to pursue the truth wherever it may lead, nor
to tolerate any error, so long as reason is left free to combat it".

By contrast, the historical profession is, in my opinion, falling over backwards to avoid addressing the issue of historical truth and Arming America -- and it is willing to sacrifice Bellesiles to divert the public's attention from others and from the Foucaultian maneuver the profession attempted in US vs Emerson. (I say "the profession" because what history professors did not actively do , they--in my opinion -- allowed the Ad Hoc and Chicago Kent Group to do by remaining silent.)

My understanding is that Bellesiles was an untenured professor in 1996 --approaching middle age and with a family to support. He might be criticized for letting scholarship yield to career pressures --but he did not create those career pressures.



Ralph E. Luker - 1/3/2003

Mr. Williams,
I am delighted for you to say what you think the main point is. Apparently what drives many of Bellesiles's amateur critics is not a disinterested quest for what is true, but the potential public policy implications of Bellesiles's argument, if it were true.
Now that we have established your relative disregard for the truth, let the discussion continue ...


Don Williams - 1/3/2003

As I have noted several times in the past, the reward or punishment of Bellesiles was unimportant --except possibly to Emory.

The primary issue is that the Case Files for the Second Amendment cases heard by the Fifth and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals are heavily contaminated with Bellesiles' history--both by his articles as well as by extensive citations to his work by others. The probate study issue was only part of that history --and even though the much-vaunted Investigation focused largely on that issue, it did not treat even it with any degree of depth.

The problem is that future Second Amendment cases going to the Supreme Court will be heavily influenced by US vs Emerson and the Ninth Circuit Court's case. The Fifth Court ruled against Emerson's initial 2nd Amendment claim based on this material and ordered him to stand trial. He has since been convicted and will probably appeal his conviction to the Supreme Court within a year or so. He faces time in prison and loss of rights as a felon if his appeal fails. It would not be fair for him to suffer such penalties if the federal appeals judges were mislead by historians.

Moreover, future lawyers will not necessarily know of the questionable aspects of the Bellesiles material within the Fifth and Ninth cases. Also, I think that much of the questionable material has not been revealed by the historical community.

In my opinion, the Organization of American Historians, the Chicago Kent authors, the Constitutional Commentary authors, and the Ad Hoc Group of Historians (Yassky brief) bear a heavy responsibility for the contamination of the Case files and they have a responsibility for undoing the damage --by showing where Bellesiles was wrong, where he was right, and where he was partially right.

Recall that the Emory Investigation criticized the editorial process at the OAH's Journal of American History that allowed Bellesiles' 1996 article to be published in the first place. In my opinion, this was where OAH undercut peer review first.

My understanding is that Clayton Cramer then submitted an article taking issue with Bellesiles' article circa 1996 but his article was rejected by OAH's JAH group. In my opinion, this is where OAH undercut peer review the second time.

In my opinion, peer review at OAH's Journal failed a third time when Arming America came out. It is not clear why OAH's JAH editorial group thought Roger Lane was qualified to review Arming America nor is it clear why JAH chose to publish what, in my opinion, was a glowing, uncritical puff piece.

My May 2002 article for HNN already noted the role of several prominent historians in giving Arming America credibility to the American public and to the Circuit Courts.

OAH and those historians are responsible for the mess in the case files. Some of them in the past have argued that only Early American historians, not law professors, are qualified authorities on the Second Amendment's historical context and the intentions of the Founders. Hence, I think
they should now clean this mess up.

Maybe the NRA and others should lobby Congress to withhold 20 percent of the NEH grants,etc until OAH faces up to its responsibilities.


Clayton E. Cramer - 1/3/2003

"Those who argue against guns will find themselves up against formidable and wealthy foes who exact a price for a major attack like Bellesiles executed."

What wealthy foes? About 85% of Bellesiles's "foes" (in terms of volume of output) were Professor James Lindgren and myself. To my knowledge, Professor Lindgren was doing this completely out of his own pocket. I know for a fact that the only money I received as a result of my work on the Bellesiles matter was a few hundred dollars for articles that I wrote for various magazines, and a $250 travel grant from one of the smaller gun rights groups to go to the American Society of Criminology conference a couple of months ago. Gun rights groups spent practically nothing on the Bellesiles matter.

There is some big money involved in the squabble over the history of gun control in America, but unsurprisingly, it comes from groups like the Joyce Foundation, which paid Bellesiles and a number of other advocates of restrictive gun control fairly hefty honoraria (like $5000 each) to write articles for a special issue of the Chicago-Kent Law Review--and then the Joyce Foundation paid for the printing and distribution of that special issue. (Only those known not to have written in opposition to restrictive gun control were asked to write for that special issue.)


Ralph E. Luker - 1/3/2003

If you have any old sackcloth and ashes left over from your previous ritualistic abasements, there appear to be several historians among us who could make use of them.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/3/2003

Mr. Williams,
I'm not sure that I understand your point of view. Do you believe that Professor Rakove needs to be tossed off the sled for his guilt by association with Michael Bellesiles?
If I understand your point of view expressed in hundreds of posts over the last several years with respect to Bellesiles himself, it is that while he is guilty "beyond reasonable doubt," the evidence falls short of "all reasonable doubt." Is that correct?
As I understand it, the former is the evidentiary standard by which Emory's outside review panel measured the evidence and that is the evidentiary standard of the Bancroft Prize committee's review of its award. What are you still arguing about? You don't believe that the "process" has done it's job?


Don Williams - 1/3/2003

for this ritualistic abasement?


Don Williams - 1/3/2003

Call me cynical, but while the wolves swarm over Bellesiles, I can't help but notice that a sled carrying some well-fed burghers is speeding away.

A Nov 20 Chicago Tribune article quoted Jack Rakove of Stanford as follows: "It's clear now that his scholarship is
less than acceptable," Rakove said. "There are cautionary lessons for historians here."

I found Mr Rakove's comments hysterically funny given that Michael Bellesiles made the following acknowledgment in the
2000 edition of Arming America: "Jack Rakove kindly went through the second draft with a keen eye and improved every
page he read" (Arming America, page 582).

I seem to recall that
Bellesiles wrote Arming America during a one year fellowship at
Stanford's Humanities Center in 1998-99 (See http://shc.stanford.edu/shc/1998-1999/98-99fellows.html#f1 )

As I recall, Bellesiles met the fellowship requirement that he become a member of the Stanford intellectual community by
giving the keynote address at a Symposium on the Second Amendment sponsored at Stanford by Jack Rakove -- see http://www.rkba.org/research/stanford-law-conference.txt .

I wonder how one of the most prominent members of the Historical Profession failed the recognize the errors in Arming America that were so obvious to non-historians??

I can't help wondering if Michael was tossed off the sled because the Republican allies of the NRA now control the NEH grants. Would things in this "objective" process have turned out differently if Gore and the Democrats had won in the elections?? After all, Clinton was in office in 1999-2000 when
Arming America came out, the Chicago Kent Symposium was held, etc.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/3/2003

Mr. Dyke, If you think Bellesiles's treatment was politically conditioned, I recommend that you say that in a headline to your post and that you be prepared to defend your argument to the large company of his critics who will be only too happy to respond to you here.
You had cautioned me about "pretense" in the profession, suggesting that the New Year's resolution threatened borderline situations in which a professor was acting in class. My point was that "acting" situations are commonly recognized by all parties as that exactly. If not immediately, then within the "learning experience." My point would be that we should be aware of something much more subtle, which is the masking which is very common among us, the charletons' and fakers' pretense of being something that we are not.
I am not in charge of deciding the relative gravity of various professional crimes and misdemeanors. Nor am I responsible for the fact that Poulshock's book was published by a university press and Bellesiles's book was published by a commercial press. If you read my essay more carefully, you will find that I posit that it is that difference which has determined their market fates.
Beyond that, Mr. Dyke, I am more disturbed by the fact that DNA evidence almost certainly proves that capital punishment in this country has allowed the state to murder innocent people, wrongly convicted of capital crimes, than I am by the less conclusive punishments faced by any of my professional colleagues.


Richard Dyke - 1/3/2003

Mr. Luker,
You make some good points in your reply, but I must say with all due respect that it appears you have attempted to dismiss some of my view with a classic strawman argument. You also surmise a bit too much. What is the strawman? Ellis' "acting" and your experience with a most unreal "Queen Victoria." These are the extremes (it appears anyway, although I do not know with what attitude and demeanor Ellis ployed his fiction). They are easily dispensed with, as in any classic strawman argument. My point, however, was dismissed in the process. My point was that we do not always know when "pretending to be someone we are not" is acting and when it is deception. It is sometimes hard to tell when the gray line gets crossed over, and acting becomes deception. So my point still stands. And whether you meant your points as advice or elemental lessons, they do need some fine-tuning, although we do need to hear them, since history shows if anything that we constantly forget even the essential lessons of history most of the time.

Our forgetting about the past and the problem of uneven punishments both have MUCH to do with politics. Even you allow in your comments that "Bellesiles has received the most serious consequences of all the historians touched by scandal this year: he lost a tenured professorship," and further, that "Sponsors of the Bancroft Prize created PRECEDENT [emphasis mine] to revoke the award to Arming America." So if Bellesiles received the "most serious consequences," he committed the worse crime? You also state that Poulshock's book was pulled. Bellesiles' work has not been withdrawn so far. There you have it, prima facie evidence of uneven treatment/uneven consequences/uneven punishment. Clearly, Poulshock's and Bellesiles' punishments were not the same in some basic respects. They both did lose professorships, but there the similarity ends. Bellesiles, Poulshock, and the rest all committed deception (some of the others through plagiarism), but Bellesiles suffered "the most serious consequences."

I am a bit surprised that you state that I "seem inclined to think that the punishments meeted [sic] out to our colleagues in the history profession are simply a function of the political atmosphere rather than appropriate to the offense." I do tend to believe that punishment is largely (but not "simply") a function of the political atmosphere, and I carefully did not comment on the "enormity . . . (or lack thereof)" of Bellesiles'"sins." You surmised too far on the issue of appropriateness of the punishment. History shows us clearly, that punishment is often largely a function of the political atmosphere, and "appropriate to the offense" is partially, usually largely, viewed through the political looking glass. I could use extreme examples, such the Nuremburg or Tokoyo trials, or perhaps Ethel Rosenberg during the McCarthy era (the FBI later admitted it had little or nothing on her--no proof of spying, but she was electrocuted anyway in the tense environment of the McCarthy era), but an everyday/mundane example like the unevenness of capital punishment across the States is good enough. It does matter where the trial takes place regarding whether a person will receive a capital sentence or not, and a person's looks, race, and income may also figure into the equation. We can not escape politics, Mr. Luker, and it is most unfortunate if anyone thinks that we can. The controversy over Bellesiles will continue long after the barbeque and we have picked our teeth of the sinews of his flesh. That is partly because politics is part fiction, part party line, part illusion, and of course, part truth.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/2/2003

Thanks for the good word, Mr. Morgan. I know from prior experience that you require that it be earned.
I have no more inside information on the resolution of the Bellesiles matter than you do. "Accepted" may have been a better choice of words than "received." Bellesiles, like Poulshock, did resign.
There were suggestions from both Bellesiles and his friend at the _Nation_ that an alternative resolution of the matter, Bellesiles's demotion in rank, was a potential alternative. Bellesiles says that he chose, as a matter of honor, to resign rather than accept demotion. There was no indication from Emory that a demotion in rank for Bellesiles was ever under consideration. Reading between the lines, my guess is that a demotion in rank was never, as James would say, "a live option." The suggestion that it was a possibility may have been intended to lend some dignity to an ignominious rout.


Richard Henry Morgan - 1/2/2003

If I must quibble -- and indeed I must -- I have a little trouble with this one sentence: "Bellesiles has received the most serious consequences of all the historians touched by scandal this year: he lost a tenured professorship."

Those not familiar with the facts of the case might get the impression that having "received" the consequences you mention, they were visited upon him by others, or by Emory. If he received the loss of the tenured professorship, then he received it from his own hand (as he resigned before Emory visited any consequences upon him). Now perhaps Mr. Luker and others know more about the details of the case, to include details not established by public sources, and that knowledge would justify the use of the word 'received', but to some of us out here not in the know that remains problematic. And it most certainly must have been a bad year if, in his defense, we laud the fact that at least he didn't plagiarize!!

The inclusion of a comment on Roots will not endear Luker to some, but it shows some backbone to go with the civil tone of his article.

A good summary of a bad year.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/2/2003

Mr. Dyke,
My resolutions for the New Year were not so much advice as elemental lessons drawn from last year's experience, lessons so elemental, it seems to me, that it is surprising that they even need be stated.
No one, including Professor Ellis, mistook his charade for "acting." I once had a department chairman who was known for doing an imitation of Queen Victoria in the department's required course in English history. He was a very large man. No one mistook his acting as a deception.
You seem inclined to think that the punishments meeted out to our colleagues in the history profession are simply a function of the political atmosphere rather than appropriate to the offense. Think again. Poulshock and Bellesiles faced the same consequence for similar levels of offense. It wasn't the degree of public controversy over the offense which dictated the punishment, because the Poulshock case happened with little public attention.
I do recommend that historians act less like snakes in the coming year. Kirstein's venom betrayed his pacifism. The reigning authority in Brooklyn College's history department betrays its commitment to professional standards of good teaching and scholarship.


Rick Schwartz - 1/1/2003

I've been around gun owners most of my life and I've never seen anyone hug a gun... or attempt to hug a gun... or suggest that hugging guns is a good thing.

I ~have~ read Pete Shields, the founder of Handgun Control, as he gives his vision of the goal the organization is working towards...

"Our ultimate goal ... is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition -- except for the military, policemen, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors -- totally illegal."
--July 26, 1976 interview with The New Yorker magazine

The Brady Bunch has never repudiated the vision their founder set forth in that interview. Some of us consider that being "anti-rights" and reflective of the true nature of gun control. The only way it ~can't~ be is to assume there is no right to keep and bears arms in the first place.


Richard Dyke - 1/1/2003

Goodness, I bloviated (President Harding's term) so extensively that I forgot my major reflection. I suppose it should go without saying, or perhaps it is obvious, that Michael Bellesiles paid the biggest price this year most probably because he was on the hottest political turf. Those who argue against guns will find themselves up against formidable and wealthy foes who exact a price for a major attack like Bellesiles executed. I will not comment on the enormity of his sins (or lack thereof) except to say that Bellesiles paid for his attack big time, whether fair or not. I do not know him, but I suspect he paid a much higher price than he anticipated. I suppose there is a moral here, like don't stamp around on turf where elephants tread, or something like that, unless, of course, you are an elephant, too.

I am neither a gun-hugger or hater. I suspect that neither side will entirely or even majorly solve the problem of humans killing humans. Was anyone listening on 9-11? There were no guns. Maybe history has made the issue passe.


Richard Dyke - 1/1/2003

It appears that Dr. Luker forgot about the furor over that unkind e-mail that Professor Paul Kirsten (?) wrote to the military cadet. My hypothesis about that is Kirsten was caught at his worst moment (I think I wrote that he might have had a "turd caught cross-wise" in my thread on the subject) and let his venom rule his intellect.

I only point out this flaw as an opening for a reflection. The politics of history has gotten pretty warm that last year, and when politics gets too hot, all sorts of inequities begin to arise as the witch trials increase. I just read the other day about the incredible differences in treatment of spies during the Civil War. Some were shot, some were hanged, but others were helped to escape. And that is the mixed bag we have here. Who is to know what the right remedy or punishment is? In this great country, we still execute some killers, and others talk themselves out of detention or at least survive. It's a "crap-shoot," and we certainly have had a lot of that this year.

I think Mr. Luker would do well not to offer any advice. His four points sound a little like the advice at the end of a "Dateline" segment. As it stands, his points are open to great interpretation. For example, does pretending to be someone you are not also mean "acting" is not allowed? And as for the venom, we had all better keep some. Who knows who it will be next year?!! When the colleagues start biting, it is usually provident to bite back, if one wants to live to see another day!

All of this is offered quite cordially and in good humor. So Happy New Year and let the chips fall where they may (always random and unfair of course)!


Don Williams - 12/31/2002

If you look at the Emory Investigation Report ( http://www.emory.edu/central/NEWS/Releases/Final_Report.pdf ) you see that a primary criticism of Bellesiles is that he implied in the 1996 JAH article that he had "integrated" ALice Hanson Jones' 1774 study into his study but then later informed the Committee that he had in fact, excluded Hanson's results for the years 1774-1775 because he thought arms distributions by state governments in anticipation of the War would distort the picture of private arms ownership.

(I think Bellesiles's response is intentionally deceitful -- I think Bellesiles knows full well that the state governments were not passing out guns to elderly dead people in 1774 and the probate records were ,by definition, for people who died in those years. In my opinion, this response by Bellesiles is the type of Clintonesque sophistry which so infuriates his critics and which makes even objective evaluators grit their teeth)

If you look at Bellesiles' response to the Emory Investigation ( http://www.emory.edu/central/NEWS/Releases/B_statement.pdf ), he only speaks of excluding the years 1774-1775 (which would not have been affected by the British occupation effect i cited.) Bellesiles then goes on to cite surveys of several coastal counties in the 1780s --which may very well have had low gun counts because of the wartime effect I mentioned.
In fact, I address Two of the counties he mentioned in my February post on the Chronicle of Higher Education's site:

---------------------
" 7) The same bias is probably found in some of Bellesiles's other samples:

a) The county chosen for South Carolina, Charleston, largely consists of Charleston city. It's Private firearms would have been confiscated by the British when they seized the city from General Lincoln Circa 1780. (American force was trapped and forced to surrender as prisoners.)

b) Chatham county in Georgia would have been disarmed when the British seized Savannah. "

-------------------------
See http://chronicle.com/colloquy/2002/guns/158.htm
and http://chronicle.com/colloquy/2002/guns/168.htm


Thomas Gunn - 12/31/2002


12-31-2002 ~1230

Ralph,

You've made an unfair characterization of my need for satiation. What happened to Michael is of his own doing. That he had the help of others doesn't lessen his responsibility. I think he is suffering the appropriate consequences. Based on the facts as we know them, do you feel Bellesiles was unfairly treated? And how about his critics, particularly those outside his Phd world? How do you feel about the treatment they had received until their eventual vindication?

There are still many revelations to come out of the scandal of ARMING AMERICA are your going to complain that they are simply pilling on?

I'd make a deal with you about stereotypes. I'll attempt to refrain from "anti-rights" generalizations if you avoid the stereotypes you use.

A note:

If this is a double post, I apologize.


thomas






Thomas Gunn - 12/31/2002


12-31-2002 ~1230

Ralph,

You've made an unfair characterization of my need for satiation. What happened to Michael is of his own doing. That he had the help of others doesn't lessen his responsibility. I think he is suffering the appropriate consequences. Based on the facts as we know them, do you feel Bellesiles was unfairly treated? And how about his critics, particularly those outside his Phd world?

There are still many revelations to come out of the scandal of

I'd make a deal with you about stereotypes. I'll attempt to refrain from "anti-rights" generalizations if you avoid the stereotypes you use.






Ralph E. Luker - 12/31/2002

Don,
You know a whole lot more about the details of Bellesiles' research and argument than I do. My recollection, however, is that he said that he deliberately did not count the years immediately around the Revolution because he believed that to do so would artificially inflate figures for ordinary personal gun-ownership in the late colonial/early national period. Please correct me about that if I am wrong.


Ralph E. Luker - 12/31/2002

Thomas,
I doubt that Michael Bellesiles would say that his treatment in this essay was "kid gloves." No punishment for him seems to satiate your need.
I use "gun hugger" in somewhat the same vein that you use "anti-rights," I hope: using a stereotypical term, knowing that it is unfair to those to whom it refers, and mocking my own use of it in the process. You give up using "anti-rights" and I'll give up "gun hugger."
Last time I asked around Emory about Bellesiles, the response was that no one was talking about it. What's to say? He is no longer there and 2003 is fresh with opportunity for the future.


Don Williams - 12/30/2002

Remember my June 15 comment to your HNN article --The article in which you encouraged us to let the academic process work?

" There's no reason for academia to hold off discussions about Arming America just because Emory is doing an investigation. I can make a strong case that such silence may hurt Bellesiles rather than help him."

You might look at my Dec 18 note to you on the main Bellesiles thread -- and my Dec 26 question to Mr Lindgren. My (unproven) hypothesis is that Bellesiles' probate study might have had an unwitting bias. Briefly, a number of counties sampled by Bellesiles were in high population coastal cities occupied by the British during the Revolutionary War. Probate records AFTER the Revolution may have shown low firearms ownership because private firearms in those indefensible areas were probably either seized by the British or were moved out
of the area/impressed for the Continental Army to avoid seizure by the British (this was noted by Jefferson in his Notes on Virginia). In either event, those coastal areas may have been "deserts" for private firearms ownership for decades afterward (post-war depression,etc.) Inland
areas , by contrast, may have had a high percentage of firearms
ownership. However, the high-population of the coastal "desert" areas could have exerted great weight on the overall regional percentage figure.


First, a CORRECTION: In those posts, I erronously speak of Bellesiles providing data from 1745 to 1790 -- his Table 1 in Arming America actually goes from 1765 to 1790.

The wartime effect i speak of, if it existed, would have hit records from 1776 to 1790. The prepondence of records Bellesiles checked could have been in that timeframe, both because of greater population in 1780s vice 1760s and because of a greater number of deaths due to the war, wartime smallpox epidemic, etc.

The Probate Studies which Mr Lindgren used in his Willam and Mary Law Review Article on Arming America were as follows:

A) Alice Hanson Jones /1774 period /919 inventories
B) Providence, Rhode Island / 1679-1726 period / 149 inventories
C) Gunston Hall sample of Virginia-Maryland /1740-1810 period /325 inventories
D) Essex , Mass / 1636-1650 period / 59 inventories
E) Gloria Main'study of Maryland Estates /1657-1719 period /
604 inventories
F) Anna Hawley's study of Surry County VA estates/ 1690-1715 /221
inventories
G) Male inventories from Vermont / 1773-1790 /289 inventories
H) Judith McGaw's study of New Jersey/Pennsylvania /1714-1789 /250 estates

Of the above probate samples, note that A,B, D,E,F would NOT have shown the wartime effect I describe. Sample G would not have shown it because it was not in a coastal area. Samples C and H may have shown the wartime effect to a SLIGHT degree (because a small percentage of sample period falls within 1776-1790 timeframe and because part of the samples fall within coastal areas.)

Note that this bias would not necessarily have been the result of conscious design by Bellesiles -- lacking proof, we are obliged to assume that he was unaware of it. I myself wondered initially if he might have "cooked the data" but I have since concluded that he probably was unaware of the bias. The above explanation would have been a better defense than whatever explanation he provided to the Emory Committee --if he was conscious of the effect he would probably have cited it to the Committee. Only further study of the probate records can show if I'm right or wrong ---and I'm not a professional historian.





Thomas Gunn - 12/30/2002


12-30-2002 ~1715

It was good Ralph; I may take exception to the term "gun hugger", but all in all it was good.

Is that why you double posted it? ;-o)

Your kid glove treatment of Michael Bellesiles is unwarranted however. Michael is the worst of the bunch. When shown the "beef" Michael struck out at anyone who had the audacity to criticize. Good and conscientious people were hurt by Michael both friend and foe alike. His departure from Emory was one of his own choosing though a departure was likely in the offing one way or the other.

Aren't you a common sight on the Emory campus? I'd like to hear the mood of the folks he left behind. Straight from the horse's mouth so-to-speak. What are they saying to each other, over the back fence? Students and Faculty both?



thomas

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