BELLESILES UPDATE: Based on this story from The Chicago Tribune, it sounds like Michael Bellesiles has lost touch with reality:
But Bellesiles’ situation is unique: He was charged not with plagiarism, but with making up his sources and the data backing his assertion that gun ownership was rare on the early American frontier. Also, while the others confessed and apologized, he steadfastly maintains his scholarship is sound.
“I was absolutely shocked!” he said of the committee’s report. “Obviously, they were very angry at me.”
He was sitting in a coffee shop across town from Emory. Since resigning his professorship last month, Bellesiles has avoided the university’s Atlanta campus. He doesn’t want to present former colleagues with the embarrassing choice of either lowering their eyes or saying hello to a pariah, he explained. He has also avoided the media.
Bellesiles said he decided to resign after hearing rumblings the university planned to demote him in rank.
“That would have been an affront to my honor,” said Bellesiles, 48.
Then there’s this: “By his account, it is not he but the members of Emory’s investigative committee who were the poor historians. He says he wrote a book with 1,347 footnotes and the panel found fault with material in five of them.”
The truth, of course, is that Bellesiles’ work is riddled with problems and fakery. As the article points out, people aren’t buying his story:
In retrospect, even some of his supporters wonder why they weren’t more critical of his thesis that Americans living on the frontier in the 1800s could have survived without guns while facing armed Native Americans. Could they have found meat by simply trapping wild animals rather than hunting with guns? . . .
Since then, the circle of his supporters has shrunk dramatically. Jack Rakove, a Stanford University professor who was on Bellesiles’ side, said “Arming America” remains on the reading list for his classes, though for a new reason.
“It’s clear now that his scholarship is less than acceptable,” Rakove said. “There are cautionary lessons for historians here.”
Yes. But Bellesiles, quite obviously, hasn’t learned them.
UPDATE: A reader emails: “Also the Tribune repeats the claim that criticisms of his book drove Bellesiles to move out of Atlanta. In fact, Bellesiles moved BEFORE the book came out, telling friends and colleagues at the time that it was because he couldn’t find any Atlanta schools he liked.” I believe that there has also been some doubt cast on the veracity of the death-threat stories. But at this point, I suppose there’s cause to doubt the veracity of pretty much anything Bellesiles says.