PDA

View Full Version : Bellesiles returns


hoffmang
05-11-2010, 8:35 PM
http://volokh.com/2010/05/11/a-new-book-coming-soon-from-michael-bellesiles/


A New Book Coming Soon from Michael Bellesiles

Eugene Volokh • May 11, 2010 8:54 pm

History News Network reports about it (the title is 1877: America’s Year of Living Violently) and the rather pugnacious promotional campaign for it, which argues that Bellesiles’ Arming America was wrongly criticized. Arming America was indeed quite rightly condemned, including by our own Jim Lindgren, and Bellesiles rightly lost his Bancroft Prize, and his tenured Emory University position, as a result of the scandal. That the publicity campaign is so inaccurate is unfortunate; but it is certainly possible that the new book itself might prove to be sound, and I look forward to hearing more when the book is actually out. In the meantime, here’s the publisher’s galley letter, as quoted by the HNN post:

1877 is also notable as the comeback book for a celebrated U.S. historian. Michael Bellesiles is perhaps most famous as the target of an infamous “swiftboating” campaign by the National Rifle Association, following the publication of his Bancroft Prize-winning book Arming America (Knopf, 2000) — “the best kind of non-fiction,” according to the Chicago Tribune — which made daring claims about gun ownership in early America. In what became the history profession’s most talked-about and notorious case of the past generation, Arming America was eventually discredited after an unprecedented and controversial review called into question its sources, charges which Bellesiles and his many prominent supporters have always rejected.”
And here’s an excerpt from the conclusion to the Report of the Investigative Committee in the matter of Professor Michael Bellesiles (appointed by Emory):
We have interviewed Professor Bellesiles and found him both cooperative and respectful of this process. Yet the best that can be said of his work with the probate and militia records is that he is guilty of unprofessional and misleading work. Every aspect of his work in the probate records is deeply flawed. Even allowing for the loss of some of his research materials, he appears not to have been systematic in selecting repositories or collections of probate records for examination and his recording methods were at best primitive and altogether unsystematic. Bellesiles seems to have been utterly unaware of the importance of the possibility of the replication of his research. Subsequent to the allegations of research misconduct, his responses have been prolix, confusing, evasive and occasionally contradictory. We are surprised and troubled that Bellesiles has not availed himself of the opportunities he has had since the notice of this investigation to examine, identify and share his remaining research materials. Even at this point, it is not clear that he fully understands the magnitude of his own probate research shortcomings.

The Committee’s investigation has been seriously hampered by the absence or unavailability of Professor Bellesiles’ critical and apparently lost research records and by the failures of memory and careful record keeping which Professor Bellesiles himself describes. Given his conflicting statements and accounts, it has been difficult to establish where and how Professor Bellesiles conducted his research into the probate records he cites: for example, what was read in microfilm and where and in what volume, what archives, in some cases, were actually visited and what they contained In addition to this, we note his subsequent failure to be fully forthcoming, and the implausibility of some of his defenses — a prime example is that of the “hacking” of his website; another is his disavowal of the e-mails of Aug. 30 and Sept. 19, 2000 to Professor Lindgren which present a version of the location and reading of records substantially in conflict with Professor Bellesiles’ current account. Taking all this into account, we are led to conclude that, under Question 5, Professor Bellesiles did engage in “serious deviations from accepted practices in carrying out [and] reporting results from research.” As to these matters, comprehending points (a) – (c) under Question 5, his scholarly integrity is seriously in question.

In summary, we find on Questions 1 and 2, that despite serious failures of and carelessness in the gathering and presentation of archival records and the use of quantitative analysis, we cannot speak of intentional fabrication or falsification. On Question 3, we find that the strained character of Professor Bellesiles’ explanation raises questions about his veracity with respect to his account of having consulted probate records in San Francisco County. On Question 4, dealing with the construction of the vital Table One, we find evidence of falsification. And on Question 5, which raises the standard of professional historical scholarship, we find that Professor Bellesiles falls short on all three counts....

This should be interesting. I recommend clicking through to Dr. Volokh's original post.

-Gene

jdberger
05-11-2010, 8:40 PM
Someone to take my mind off Mary Rosh.... ;)

dantodd
05-11-2010, 8:42 PM
I love that even the publisher's note states that "Arming America was eventually discredited" although they try to blame Lindgren, the critic, rather than Bellesiles, the author, they did concede the book was not accurate.

GoodEyeSniper
05-11-2010, 9:49 PM
What was the gist with "Arming America"? Are there a couple sentences that sum up the author's point of the book? And then how he was wrong? I'm guessing it was sort of anti second amendment, just wondering how he might have reached that point, without spending hours investigating.

Mssr. Eleganté
05-11-2010, 10:03 PM
What was the gist with "Arming America"? Are there a couple sentences that sum up the author's point of the book? And then how he was wrong? I'm guessing it was sort of anti second amendment, just wondering how he might have reached that point, without spending hours investigating.

Basically, he said that his research proved that America didn't really have a strong history of private gun ownership until well after the Civil War. He tried to show that pro-gun people had just created a myth of guns being an important part of early American culture.

There was one part of the book where he quoted George Washington (out of context) talking about how none of the locals showing up for militia duty had any guns. But when the quote was taken in context it was clear that George Washington was shocked that people in that area didn't have guns because everywhere else he went the militia members all had lots of guns.

Bellesiles compiled historical probate records that showed early Americans didn't possess many firearms. But when other researchers went back and tried to confirm his research, they found he was making claims based on records that had been lost several decades before he was even born. He kept changing his story..."Oh, I didn't mean San Francisco probate records, I meant Alameda County. What? The Alameda County records office says that they've never heard of me? Oh, I meant San Mateo. What? You want my copies of the records? My office flooded last week and I threw them all out."

hoffmang
05-11-2010, 10:14 PM
Bellesiles actually claimed to have probate (wills and bequests) records from San Francisco County in the 1800's. Of course any real historian that thinks about it would realize that those records were destroyed in the 1906 Quake and fire...

Bellesiles wasn't outed by gunnies - he was outed by probate historians and librarians who had thought he'd found the holy grail...

-Gene

1JimMarch
05-11-2010, 10:45 PM
Well in 1877, that's right when the states got the green light to go ape-poop on civil rights violations in the final decision in the Cruikshank case of 1876. So yeah, no question life would have really sucked for anybody black or brown.

He has to be writing something connected to Cruikshank so how in God's name is he going to spin THAT? Seriously? Is he going to try and completely rip the ground out from under Charles Lane's 2008 book "The Day Freedom Died", which has become the final word on Cruikshank?

Or has Bel-liar actually turned over a new leaf and he's now going to talk about how Cruikshank disarmed the blacks and spawned the worst abuses of the KKK and their fellow travelers? Ummm...yeah, color me skeptical on THAT!

Or...is he going to ignore Cruikshank?

This is just...potentially hilarious. The dude's treading on major thin ice here and he has to know it...

Gray Peterson
05-11-2010, 11:08 PM
Wee, we're going to be able to kick Bel-liar in the teeth again.

jdberger
05-11-2010, 11:34 PM
I'm waiting for the Brady Press Release....

gunsandrockets
05-12-2010, 12:09 AM
Not only did Bellesiles claim that private gun ownership in Revolutionary era America was rare, he also made the preposterous claim that Revolutionary era firearms were such poor weapons that axes were preferred! Bellesilles seemingly ignorant of the horribly violent era of 1450 to 1650 when warfare was transformed by the introduction of early firearms and how by the end, the flintlock musket with socket bayonet ended up the dominate tool of ground war.

Sutcliffe
05-12-2010, 1:50 AM
Try to make this short.
Six years GND posted an opinion piece from the Khaleej Times(English newsrag based in Dubai) by a respected author and historian named Phillip Knightly(Phillipknightly.com). Knightly went on about how could americans seperate themselves from the propaganda fed to us by the NRA.
Oh, wait. It seems that a certain brilliant historian named Bellesiles had already exposed the myth of the American relationship with firearms as a fraud. He then went on to cite 'Arming of America' as evidence. I fired off an email telling him that the whole basis of his argument was built upon a seriously flawed and, even, dishonest work that was a huge deal in literary circles because the Bancroft Prize was revoked and Bellesiles allowed to resign under a cloud. I then questioned his ignorance on a source that had been discredited two years prior, but that was all. I was courteous and nowhere near disrespectful.
A week later he posted another opinion piece, sort of, apologizing for his mistake, but not backing down from the fact that the NRA has us hoodwinked for their own gain,
He did mention that many, many Americans had e-mailed him to point out his mistake and every one managed to call him names and use various other stereotypical reactions that defenders of the 2nd Ammendment have been accused of. The one voice of reason, he said, was a paper from an eastern chapter of the Brady Campaign titled "How the NRA has Bamboozled the American public". I felt I was more than courteous and reasonable, yet he declined to mention my response.
He then restated that his original opinion was unchanged and entirely valid. He was now washing his hands of the matter entirely and gun owners were not to bother him again.

I guess my point would be that this guy(who is considered to be an expert on Kim Philby), a respected historian did virtually no research on a subject and then the arrogance to say his opinion is still valid, despite his entire argument being exposed as a lie.
This tool is now earning pub money from his 'expert' research and investigation into something as important as the most heinous Cold War spy in history?
Maybe I'm saying the halls of Acadamia are full of arrogant asses.

RRangel
05-12-2010, 5:21 AM
It will be nice to see Bellesiles crash and burn again.

SgtDinosaur
05-12-2010, 9:27 AM
Not this moron again. He was thoroughly discredited the last time. I was highly annoyed considering I have a family history that talks about my g-g-g grandfather, a revolutionary war veteran and farmer in NC, enjoying his guns and hunting. Anyone from the south (especially) knows what he is full of.

Glock22Fan
05-12-2010, 10:03 AM
IIRC, one of his contentions was that the probate records (many of which he saw only in his imagination) made little mention of firearms, therefore he concluded that very few people owned firearms.

But wait, firearms were commonly around and regarded as essential tools. They were not, on the whole, valuable collectors' items. And surely the probate records made little mention of other tools, such as tinder boxes, axes, saws, scythes etc. etc. So, are we to assume that tinder boxes, axes, saws scythes etc. didn't exist either? In whatever wills did exist, surely most firearms were passed on under the general category of household effects, or "All my other goods and effects."

Bellesiles' book has to be the most amazing piece of crap published as an important work that has ever existed. The academic committee (not the NRA) that eventually saw the light and tore it to pieces were, by academic standards, vicious in their comments on his integrity and bare-faced effrontery.

M. D. Van Norman
05-12-2010, 11:40 AM
As one critic pointed out, based on probate records, Americans didn’t own a lot of clothing or furniture either.

bridgeport
05-12-2010, 12:01 PM
Incredible. This pretender has the temerity after being flagrantly outed as such, to author another "history" book. Has he no shame? Again, this is simply incredible.

Meplat
05-12-2010, 8:33 PM
Then as now, the disposition of his guns is much too important and meaningful to a man to be trusted to the vagaries of probate. They are passed from hand to hand. Sometimes held for a promising youngster by a trusted friend whose spoken word is a thousand times stronger than any words on paper. To fail to understand this demonstrates a total ignorance of gun culture.

In my culture one can tell when a man believes his days on earth are numbered. He gives away his guns.

dantodd
05-12-2010, 9:40 PM
Then as now, the disposition of his guns is much too important and meaningful to a man to be trusted to the vagaries of probate. They are passed from hand to hand. Sometimes held for a promising youngster by a trusted friend whose spoken word is a thousand times stronger than any words on paper. To fail to understand this demonstrates a total ignorance of gun culture.

In my culture one can tell when a man believes his days on earth are numbered. He gives away his guns.

+10000 One is usually unable to use his guns before he dies. I would see it as a waste for the guns to sit collecting dust rather than being taken out to exercise. There is no better feeling in the world than being there when your son or daughter finally gets to take home that gun you've been promising them for decades, why wait too long and miss that moment?

ja308
05-13-2010, 1:06 PM
I heard an inteview with Clayton Cramer last night on www.nranews.com.
Mr Cramer told of how Bellisides changed history that he obtained from Mr. Cramer.
Bellisides is a fool and these so called universities are nothing but propaganda mills.Not sure if he was fired from the college he disgraced.
ja308

ja308
05-13-2010, 1:08 PM
oops ,did I mis spell this CHUMPS name ?
ja308

Glock22Fan
05-13-2010, 1:19 PM
I heard an inteview with Clayton Cramer last night on www.nranews.com (http://www.nranews.com).
Mr Cramer told of how Bellisides changed history that he obtained from Mr. Cramer.
Bellisides is a fool and these so called universities are nothing but propaganda mills.Not sure if he was fired from the college he disgraced.
ja308

He was, IIRC, asked to resign.

B Strong
05-13-2010, 6:16 PM
Thanks Gene, good catch.

gunsmith
05-13-2010, 6:36 PM
thanks for the heads up Gene, I read that book when it came out & couldn't believe how full of holes it was.

Notice the galley said he won the Bancroft, not that it was also taken back.
Gunnies are notorious history buffs, the anti's think we are all illiterate.
That's why they constantly are flummoxed when they lose the debate.

If only we were as media savvy as they are.