Historians spar over Brooklyn history

Historians in the News

Two Kings County historians are sparring over factual inaccuracies in one of their books, and the fight is getting so intense that it seems they actually believe the adage that only the winner gets to write history.

The book feud — the borough’s biggest since Park Slope and Prospect Heights battled it out for literary supremacy – started when history writer and memorabilia collector Brian Merlis sent The Brooklyn Paper a scathing review of former Brooklyn Borough Historian John Manbeck’s 2008 book, “Historic Photos of Brooklyn,” which he claims is riddled with factual inaccuracies.

“Although Manbeck’s latest work looks quite good on the coffee table, when I opened it I was appalled to find so many glaring errors, overlooked or intentional,” wrote Merlis, who co-authored a number of local photo anthologies including ‘’Brooklyn: The Way It Was’’ and “Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton: A Photographic Journey, 1870-1970.”...

... Merlis acknowledged that he has clashed with Manbeck in the past – particularly over the incident with the Kingsborough Historical Society – though he denies that personal squabbles motivated his harsh review.

“To me it’s not about politics,” he said. “When somebody puts stuff out that’s not right, I can’t be quiet.”

Current Borough Historian Ron Schweiger refused to get into the middle of the book battle, but he acknowledged that inaccuracies are commonplace in history writing — no matter the author.

“Mistakes happen — they happen even in the best of books,” said Schweiger.
Read entire article at The Huffington Post

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