What Are Some Examples of Bad History Books?

Feb 2019
840
Serbia
I'm interested in some examples of books which are poorly written or inaccurate, not counting the obvious ones that deal with pseudo-history and topics which border on conspiracy theories. What are some of the bad books you would not recommend and why.
 
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Oct 2018
1,498
Sydney
The Carthaginians 6th-2nd Century BC by Salimbeti and D'Amato. It's an osprey book. It seeks to describe the clothing, appearance, arms and armour of the warriors who fought under Carthage. In a variety of cases the authors do a good job, especially when they synthesize literary, archaeological and iconographic sources. However, they often rely on the Latin epic poem Punica by Silius Italicus as a source. Punica is not a work of history and should not be treated as such. He used the history of Livy, but adds his own embellishments when describing the appearance and equipment of the units who fought under Carthage, since, unfortunately, Livy was not very interested in such details. It was also written in the first century AD, long after the Punic Wars (the same can be said for Livy, but Livy was using Polybius and other early historians). This means that a good number of the book's descriptions are probably nothing more than the fantasy of a sub-par poet. They also rely on Silius to claim that Hannibal's army included chariots. If Silius is the only author to claim that Hannibal used chariots, then he probably didn't use chariots!
 
Mar 2019
1,535
KL
every history book is, i would just give an example,

aurangzeb alamgir has been considered a tyrant, an evil king by the indians, so history books must have made such impressions on him

now there is a new history of aurangzeb alamgir by audrey trushkey debunking such history and presenting him as complex historic figure.

so do we called audrey as fringe historian, or the preious historians as bad or pseudo historians. audrey has her own bias as i have felt when it especially comes to pre islamic indian history and her knowledge in that area is especially very biased ad very bad. she banned me on twitter account based on some criticism based on her lack of knowledge of pre islamic indian history. most of the british inspired historians are trying to change the colonial history of india where every muslim was an evil ruler who they freed the hindus/indians from, today they want to correct this colonial perseption, this is what the oxford and cambridge are mostly striving for, a good indo islamic history while not doing the same for pre islamic indian history which they have also maligned to a great deal. history of aryan migration still stands to be corrected in light of archaeological progress and evidences.

history is subjective, there is nothing as good history books.

primary sources need to be investigated and one can form his/her own opinions, there is no need of bureaucracy as secondary source or as i call propaganda source.

regards
 
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Feb 2019
840
Serbia
John Keegan's book on the American Civil War. Astoundingly careless and full of errors: errors of fact not of interpretation.
Interesting. I have Keegan's The First World War and The Face of Battle and I found them to be alright. I've heard bad things about A History of Warfare though I have not read it.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,683
SoCal
I'm interested in some examples of books which are poorly written or inaccurate, not counting the obvious ones that deal with pseudo-history and topics which border on conspiracy theories. What are some of the bad books you would not recommend and why.
Hitler's Willing Executions by Daniel Goldhagen received a lot of criticism after it was published:

Hitler's Willing Executioners - Wikipedia

The link above explains why.
 
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Sep 2016
1,266
Georgia
Robin Lane Fox's ,, Alexander the Great ' '. Just his description of Gaugamela is plain stupid and ridiculous. I also would like to post Ernst Badian's review of his book :

"This book, in typically redundant style, proclaims itself 'not a biography' (p. I I): 'Augustine, Cicero and perhaps the emperor Julian are the only figures from antiquity whose biography can be attempted, and Alexander is not among them' (sic: my italics). The author claims to have read I,472 books and articles, most of them useless. He promises to omit reference to 'those which attack each other or rely . .. on what we do not know, or else mistake the little we do' (500). One expects a work singularly free from polemic. In fact, massive parts of the commentaries (there are no notes, only running commentaries in small type) are devoted to sneers at Fox's predecessors, from the first page (503: 'Hamilton . . . disbelieves this on no grounds except a wish to discredit the story') to almost the last (550: 'Samuel ... adduces a Babylonian parallel which is irrelevant and anyway false'). What is normally lacking is actual argument: the ipse dixit suffices. Thus Tarn is said to be 'persistently mistaken both in method and evidence' (sic: we have seen that English is not Fox's forte) in nearly all his vol. 2, which 'has been ignored throughout the writing of this book'. In fact, Tarn, inevitably, is basic to many of Fox's interpretations. Indeed, his characteristic mannerism is to copy out his predecessors and cite them in obloquy. Thus (one instance among scores) C. B. Welles is frequently followed without acknowledg-ment (218: the route from Siwah; 59: Alexander's contribution to history), but mentioned only when his note on a statement in Diodorus is 'another of his blunders'.

Enough on ethics and style. Let us look at the positive content. The blurb promises a portrait of Alexander against the background of the Eastern world. This is indeed very much needed and has never been properly attempted. No wonder: it requires competence in many languages, massive study of scattered archaeological reports and acquain-tance with vast and often inaccessible areas. Let us test the author's qualifications.

Knowledge of Greek is surely basic. One shudders at ignorance of the meaning of fldpflapo; (103 et al.), at phrases like amphistome taxis (527). But the standard mark of elementary deficiency is unverified use of Loeb translations. Here Fox has been unfortunate: he has placed naive trust in the Loeb Arrian, long known as incompetent to scholars familiar with this field. He has based some of his theories precisely on blunders in that translation. Thus he makes Sardis a 'free city' (128) on the basis of its 'tribute, contributions and offerings' [his quotation marks] and uses this (516) to sneer at one of my suggestions. So far from consulting the Greek text, he has not even consulted a good translation like Hamilton's: he has adapted what he got straight from the ass's mouth ('taxes, contributions, and tribute'-Loeb). Arr. i I7.7 (Nicias is in charge rtv yidpwv xri acrvvxd$ed re Kai dOrpQopa~)is perfectly clear.

The major self-exposure comes in an argument that is also a characteristic instance of his use of sources. Plutarch names an Alexander in charge of a Thracian unit as the man justly killed by the heroic Timoclea. The source is probably Aristobulus; though Jacoby would not be positive. Fox identifies this Alexander with the Lyncestian-prima facie an absurdity, since the point of the story is precisely that the villain was killed. But F. has an answer: Aristobulus was deliberately trying to hide the fact that the Lyncestian Alexander was only arrested much later and executed after the 'conspiracy of Philotas'. The passage is therefore 'of some significance for the source-history of Alexander' (517).

That the death of one of the most eminent men in the kingdom could be thus misreported, even by a kolax like Aristobulus, would take a good deal of proving. What is the proof ? First, that Alexander the Lyncestian was 'known to be present with an army of Thracians at Thebes' (I46). In the commentary (517) the surprising statement is divided and hedged about: 'Alex. of Lyncestis did lead Thracians in 335 (A. 1.25.1) and was certainly thought [sic!] to be present at Thebes (A. 1.7.6).' Now, the latter is misleading to a degree: Arrian reports that, when the Theban leaders who had claimed that Alexander was dead were faced with reports that 'Alexander' was personally leading an army against Thebes, they said that was another Alexander, the Lyncestian. Whether they believed this or not is beside the point: the fact is that the 'presence' of Alexander the Lyncestian with the army was a false tale, due to either confusion or a lie. He is never mentioned as actually with the army. But it is the statement that this Alexander 'did lead Thracians in 335' that shows the author's methods to the full. Arrian i 25 reports that the Lyncestian was made commander in Thrace (at some unspecified time after his namesake's accession) and that, when Calas received a satrapy in 334, he succeeded to Calas' command of the Thessalian cavalry. Unfortunately for F., the Loeb here surpasses itself and twice prints 'Thracian' for 'Thessalian' cavalry as the force under Alexander. And this is the only 'evidence', ancient or modern, that Alexander of Lyncestis ever 'led Thracians' (though in 334 and not in 335).

Let this suffice to illustrate F.'s competence both in language and in historical method. It is difficult to believe him, after this, when he claims to have con-sulted cuneiform Akkadian sources in the original (516: he refers to an edition without translation, and no reference is given to existing translations); all the more so when the translations one can find do not bear out the author's claim as to their contents. Moreover, the source is cited (502) as 'Yale Expedi-tion to Babylon', whereas it is in fact Hilprecht's Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania-so that the abbreviation he uses ('B.E.') does not even fit his imaginary title: it must be taken over from whatever uncited immediate source he actually used. The reader is meant to be impressed rather than to check. That technique is frequent, e.g. (at random) when the assertion (505) that 'There are enough campaigns against Illyria [sic-whatever that means] of which nothing is known', advanced to support the fantasy of one not long before Philip's death, is based on three references: one to a speech in Curtius and two to Frontinus (neither referring to Illyria); or when the assertion (35) that the army reached its verdict in trials by spear-clashing and 'It was the king who decided for which verdict they had clashed the louder' is supported (506) by a single reference to Curt. x 7.14, where there is no trace of a trial or of the king. Some of these cases are masterpieces of muddled ignorance over any number of fields, as when we are told (112, with commentary) that Alexander, 'As ruler of the Thessalians', stopped 'Locri in Thessaly' from sending the tribute of noble maidens to Troy. None of the three scholars cited (Momigliano, with the wrong journal; Manni, with a false title; and G. L. Huxley) puts the intermission of the tribute, connected by our source with the end of the 'Phocian War', under Alexander; and none of them, certainly, puts the Locrians in Thessaly.

Grave ignorance of geography suffices to play havoc with an account of Alexander's campaigns. Fox takes little notice of either ancient or modern discussions of the topography of Gaugamela; his discussion of Issus is vitiated by his ignorance of the fact that there have been major changes in the coast-line since antiquity: his attempts to localise the battle on a particular stretch of coastal plain are useless. His fanciful treatment of Granicus is new only in his failure to refer to the one careful investiga-tion of the topography, Colonel A. Janke's early this century. For Fox these problems are entirely literary: his treatment of Granicus suitably trails off into an indifferent translation of a Cavafy poem.

This purely literary approach, reinforced by a rhetorical and sententious style, inevitably goes with a lack of real interest not only in geography, but in all practical matters, such as organisation, logistics, military and naval affairs, and in social history. A strange and implausible view on the quinquereme is propounded (186) without discussion, and in ignorance of Morrison and Williams, Greek Oared Ships. Greek citizen hoplites are described as 'Greece's landed aristocrats' (72); Thucydides' famous passage on the hoplite line's drift to the right is misunder-stood to mean that the soldier's right was his 'shielded side'; and it is claimed that in consequence generals 'usually placed their strongest units on their respec-tive lefts' (73)-as arrant a mass of nonsense as has ever been written on Greek armies. Two anecdotal accounts are conflated and misunderstood, to pro-duce the claim (72) that Philip forced his army 'to march for thirty miles at a time in high summer with thirty days' supplies on their backs'. Fox clearly lacks not only experience of marching or camping, but interest in it; not to mention ability to use historical sources. (In fact Frontinus iv 1.6 refers to 'thirty days' flour' carried to summer camp; the marches of 300 stadia under arms are in Polyaenus iv 2.IO, specifying that the men carried one day's food.)

One could go on. There is not a chapter without similar gross errors and absurdities. This book astoundingly fails to fulfil its announced purpose. The author has neither the training nor the inclination for serious scholarship. Despite the displays of 'erudition' and the arrogant polemics against scholars whose work he appropriates, this is essentially 'a good yarn', though rather long: an adventure story mid-way between historical journalism and historical fiction. ''
 
Sep 2015
1,805
England
John Keay, China. - I just don't care that much.
Trevor Royle The Wars of the Roses - rambles.
Probably anything by Marc Morris - trying to be accessible to the mystical subterranean reader.
 
Sep 2015
1,805
England
every history book is, i would just give an example,

aurangzeb alamgir has been considered a tyrant, an evil king by the indians, so history books must have made such impressions on him

now there is a new history of aurangzeb alamgir by audrey trushkey debunking such history and presenting him as complex historic figure.

so do we called audrey as fringe historian, or the preious historians as bad or pseudo historians. audrey has her own bias as i have felt when it especially comes to pre islamic indian history and her knowledge in that area is especially very biased ad very bad. she banned me on twitter account based on some criticism based on her lack of knowledge of pre islamic indian history. most of the british inspired historians are trying to change the colonial history of india where every muslim was an evil ruler who they freed the hindus/indians from, today they want to correct this colonial perseption, this is what the oxford and cambridge are mostly striving for, a good indo islamic history while not doing the same for pre islamic indian history which they have also maligned to a great deal. history of aryan migration still stands to be corrected in light of archaeological progress and evidences.

history is subjective, there is nothing as good history books.

primary sources need to be investigated and one can form his/her own opinions, there is no need of bureaucracy as secondary source or as i call propaganda source.

regards
The Oxford History of the British Empire is not striving to correct misconceptions or misplaced perceptions. They are being objective. Please see the thread Can History Be Objective ... Can History Be Objective?
 
Mar 2018
779
UK
every history book is
Absurd reductionism which comes from a useless definitions. If you are defining the meaning of the phrase "a bad history book" so broadly that it must include every history book ever written, then you have achieved nothing at all. There is literally nothing gained by making the category "bad" when applied to "history books" universal. All you've done is made "a bad history book" synonymous with "a history book". The entire point of having adjectives next to a noun is to provide more information regarding that noun.