Blogs > Liberty and Power > Victor Davis Hanson: "Worst Historian Since Parson Weems"

Aug 19, 2006 5:52 am

Victor Davis Hanson: "Worst Historian Since Parson Weems"

So says an article,"Bard of the Booboisie," in Counterpunch. People I respect have told me that Professor Hanson is a good historian, despite his annoying Wilsonian and Panglossian purple prose when he holds forth on Iraq. Nevertheless, enjoy:

Let us stipulate straightaway: Victor Davis Hanson is the worst historian since Parson Weems. To picture anything remotely as bad as his pseudo-historical novels and propaganda tracts, one would have to imagine an account of the fiscal policies of the Bush administration authored by Paris Hilton.

Mr. Hanson, Cal State Fresno's contribution to human letters, is the favorite historian of the administration, the Naval War College, and other groves of disinterested research. His academic niche is to drag the Peloponnesian War into every contemporary foreign policy controversy and thereby justify whatever course of action our magistrates have taken. One suspects that if the neo-cons at the American Enterprise Institute were suddenly seized by the notion to invade Patagonia, Mr. Hanson would be quoting Pericles in support.

Hat tip Ralph Luker at Cliopatria.

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Jonathan Dresner - 9/9/2005

His editorializing, not his scholarship. As far as I know, from people who know the field, that's sound. Like all scholarship, it's going to be subject to revision and reevaluation with new sources and new methods in the future, but nobody's complained recently.

Aeon J. Skoble - 9/9/2005

His arguments about the Iraq war, or his arguments about the Pelopponesian War and the Persian War? If you mean the former, I'll take your word for it, but if the latter, please give an example (not a challenge, an actual request).

Jonathan Dresner - 9/8/2005

It's his ham-fisted use of historical analogy in his editorializing that makes us "lefty" types suspicious of his historical acumen. I'm perfectly happy to accept that he's a decent classicist and military historian, but his logic and use of examples are highly tendentious.

It is, by the way, nearly impossible to refute a "theme": his arguments have been refuted time and again, though.

Radley Balko - 9/8/2005

My favorite quote about Hanson, via the comments section on Gene Healy's blog:

"As a contemporary political and military stategist/commentator, Hanson sure is a fine classicist historian."

Aeon J. Skoble - 9/8/2005

This piece was pretty screedy, IMO. People who know classical history better than I do have said good things about, e.g., his grasp of the Peloponnesian War and the Persian Wars. The fact that he is hawkish on Iraq and Afghanistan infuriates lefty history profs, but I haven't seen any non-ideological rebuttals to his main themes. If your dentist were pro-Iraq war, you wouldn't infer that he was a terrible dentist. So why does Hanson being pro-war mean he's a terrible historian? Whether or in what ways the lessons of 480 BC are applicable to 21st century US politics is, I should think, pretty controversial, but disagreement about that shouldn't be sufficient to read Hanson out of the academy as this pseudonymous fellow seems to.

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