A Scholarly Crime Wave. (the Periodical Observer)

The Wilson Quarterly, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

A Scholarly Crime Wave. (the Periodical Observer)


A Survey of Recent Articles

"Teachers are supposed to be role models in students' lives," declared Roy Groller, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. "They should try to lead by example."

He was explaining to a New York Times reporter (Jan. 15, 2002) his opposition to the use of historian Stephen Ambrose's books in university classes now that the emeritus professor at the University of New Orleans stands accused of plagiarism. After an expose by Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard (Jan. 14, 2002), the best-selling author of The Wild Blue (2001) and seven other books since 1997, denied having committed plagiarism. But he acknowledged having "used" extensive passages from another author's work while making only footnoted references to the source. He promised to use quotation marks in future editions.

Ambrose soon was joined in the media's dock by another popular historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who had taught for 10 years at Harvard University. She, too, denied the plagiarism charge, but said that, yes, mistakes had been made in her 1987 book, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, and would be rectified.

Those are only two of the scholarly scandals of recent months. The other cases appear much more serious.

One involves Michael A. Bellesiles, a professor of history at Emory University, and his celebrated Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture (2000). The work, seemingly based on exhaustive research, was acclaimed by the eminent historians Edmund Morgan and Garry Wills, and last year won Columbia University's prestigious Bancroft Prize for history. Bellesiles contends in his book that, contrary to popular myth, no "gun culture" existed in early America, that until the mid 19th century only a minority of white men -- 15 percent prior to 1790 -- owned firearms. When local militia were summoned, government had to supply the guns.

Arming America lent credence to the view that the Second Amendment was meant to protect a collective, rather than an individual, right to bear arms. It was swiftly embraced by gun-control advocates and furiously attacked by the National Rifle Association. Then James Lindgren, a law professor at Northwestern University, and other scholars began to question Bellesiles's methods, zeroing in on his use of county probate records to support his contention that private ownership of firearms was rare.

"It is unprecedented for such a celebrated work of scholarship to contain as many errors," Lindgren tells Danny Postel of the Chronicle of Higher Education (Feb. 1, 2002). Don Hickey, a professor of history at Wayne State University, in Nebraska, who originally supported Bellesiles's thesis, now views the book as "a case of genuine, bona fide academic fraud."

Responding to his critics in the Organization of American Historians' OAH Newsletter (Nov. 2001), Bellesiles minimizes the importance of the five paragraphs devoted to the probate records in his 444-page text, and says that a flood in his office "turned most of the legal pads on which I had taken notes into unreadable pulp."

But Lindgren and others, after examining some of the original probate records, were unable to replicate Bellesiles's findings. And some records he cited apparently do not exist. "Bellesiles claimed to have counted guns in probate records of the estates of people who died in 1849 or 1850 and 1858 or '59 in San Francisco," writes Melissa Seckora, an editorial associate at National Review (Oct. 1, 2001). "The problem is that, according to everyone who should know, all the probate records that Bellesiles allegedly reviewed were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire," Emory launched a formal inquiry into the Bellesiles case in October. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Scholarly Crime Wave. (the Periodical Observer)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.