Stephen Ambrose's Work Faces New Scrutiny





LOS ANGELES (April 26) -- The late historian Stephen E. Ambrose rose to fame on the strength of an authorized biography that he claimed included details from "hundreds of hours" of interviews with former President Dwight David Eisenhower.

But Richard Rayner, a writer for The New Yorker, reports today that during his research Ambrose apparently had only limited access to Eisenhower, and that archived datebooks and other records conflict with some of the times Ambrose claimed he had sat down with the former five-star general....

"Ambrose's books on Eisenhower, like his other books, should be evaluated by scholars who are the most familiar with the sources on which those books are based," said David A. Hollinger, president of the Organization of American Historians. "If Ambrose's claims about Eisenhower stand up under such scrutiny, the apparent fact that Ambrose deceived us all about the degree of his intimacy with Eisenhower is not a major problem."

Dicier, Hollinger said, will be if details from the work turn out to be based solely on things that Ambrose claimed Eisenhower told him in the sessions that appear to have not taken place.

"This deceit does undercut any of Ambrose's claims that cannot be warranted by evidence other that what Ambrose says was told him by Eisenhower," said Hollinger, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. "Popular writers like Ambrose are under an obligation, no less than professional scholars who write for specialists, to be truthful. Ambrose's audience, too, deserves an accurate account of historical events."


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