HNN Hot Topics: The Return of Michael Bellesiles





Michael A. Bellesiles is back in the news after a nearly seven-year hiatus. HNN first brought you news of Mr. Bellesiles's new book, 1877: America’s Year of Living Violentlyback in May, when controversy erupted over a provocatively-worded press jacket. Mr. Bellesiles contributed an op-ed to HNN that same month in connection with his book, and at the end of June penned a far more controversial piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education about teaching military history to a student of his whose half-brother was killed in Afghanistan. A Chronicle investigation of the article, prompted by claims on the article's comments board and elsewhere, determined that the student had"fabricated several details in the story" and that"Mr. Bellesiles said he was saddened that his student had altered the details of a personal tragedy and that he regretted that he had unknowingly passed on a story that was not accurate."

Two major articles on Mr. Bellesiles were published on August 3, in the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education, respectively. You can read them here and here.

Recent Controversies

The Arming America Scandal


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Nat Bates - 8/10/2010

The real issue is not whether gun ownership was widespread, but of the fundamental nature of distributing power over the broad masses of the people. A People's War like ours, the French, the Russian, the Chinese or the Anti-colonial always have an "Arm the masses" phase. Ours did as well, where the Patriots demanded that people who were unarmed bear arms. The Quakers were somewhat excepted, but you get the point.

Then, at some point, in all of those revolutions, the people are expected to shut up. The wealthy, slave owners, or Party Bosses then expect to take over where the previous Monarchy left off. Fortunately, in our country, gun ownership was widespread. Thus, the Framers HAD to listen to the People, and enshrined a Bill of Rights. Native Americans could also resist "Manifest Destiny" far more effectively with guns then without guns.

More conservative revolutions like the English did not enshrine the People. And, the more radical revolutions enshrined Party Bosses or moralistic Jacobins. The American Revolution, for all of its tame Whiggism, remained democratic and then resulted in a series of democratic reforms in the 1840's, 1860's, the labor reforms, suffrage, Civil Rights, Environment, Anti-War, et al. Liberals and leftists never credit widespread ownership of firearms for the fact that the American Revolution did not degenerate in to an aristocracy of elite white male slave owners, but remember that the Black Codes of the South were the first gun control laws we really had. (Or among the first)

So, it may be that the people were encouraged to arm themselves. Remember, however, that it was the people themselves who held on to their rights at every turn once the revolutionary phase was over and consolidationism began.

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