What Are Some Examples of Bad History Books?

Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
#21
Closer to my own area of expertise, one could point I suppose to Bernal's 'Black Athena', which was discussed a little here:
Black Athena book review and manipulation of history.
I should read that work (as I carry a strong dislike of it, despite not having read it, and supposedly it's the most provocative books that make you think, so...), but I'm afraid it'd induce some kind of mental breakdown.
 
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Likes: Runa
Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
#22
Thank you, but I feel obliged to say that the credit should go the the article that I quoted, which relied in turn on the excellent and very erudite critique by Robert Irwin (who showed that the dastardly 'Orientalists' were in fact a varied, interesting and often eccentric bunch of people who differed considerably in their attitudes). The people who quote Said's work as being gospel truth don't care of course, since ideology is always what ultimately counts with them, Said in their view showed what kind of people 'Orientalists' ought to be and that should be enough! :)
Well, consider my congratulations transferred to him in that case :p

Yeah, gospel is an understatement. I still can't get over how we were just given the entire book to read as first year undergrads in History, with literally not a single article of criticism to serve as a counterpoint. I remember looking up some article by Bernard Lewis from the 1980s on JSTOR, and essentially did my best to try to thrash Saïd's book on the essay I wrote that week. It was not appreciated...

What can I say, Sweden is sometimes far too "Swedish". I do not regret switching to Classics...
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,571
Portugal
#23
I must be fortunate because I really can’t recall one. At least not one that I fully read.

Mastersonmcvoidson excluded in the first post “pseudo-history and topics which border on conspiracy theories”, even if they want to pass by history books, so I couldn’t put here something like “1421” by Menzies (who is not a historian), or some garbage about the Templars that I wrongly picked in a library.

But usually history books written by non historians or pop historians usually give us bad results.

Anything written by Philippa Gregory (Even though I still buy them)(Note: she writes historical fiction)
As far as I know, she doesn’t write history books. As you well noted she writes fiction, historical fiction, not history.
 
Aug 2010
16,202
Welsh Marches
#24
I should read that work (as I carry a strong dislike of it, despite not having read it, and supposedly it's the most provocative books that make you think, so...), but I'm afraid it'd induce some kind of mental breakdown.
I'm afraid that Bernal's book is not one of those provocative works that provoke one to think again about anything, it is really just tedious when one recognizes the perversity of his approach. So it's harmless enough, liable to arouse boredom rather than apoplexy.
 
Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
#26
I'm afraid that Bernal's book is not one of those provocative works that provoke one to think again about anything, it is really just tedious when one recognizes the perversity of his approach. So it's harmless enough, liable to arouse boredom rather than apoplexy.
Ah. Good for me, then I will ignore it without feeling guilty. My budding source-critical "spidersense" told me that it was similar to what you describe...
 
Aug 2010
16,202
Welsh Marches
#27
I too liked Keegan and owned all his books. I was shocked at how slipshod his book on the American Civil War was.
That's a shame, but I wouldn't wish that anyone would be deterred from reading 'The Face of Battle' as a result, it is an excellent and original book. (I used to live quite near him and would sometimes see him travelling home on the train from London, but never liked to trouble him.)
 
Jun 2017
351
maine
#28
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
I don't think that Primary Sources assure that a work is good any more than Secondary Sources assure that it is bad. Some Primary Sources are really quite inaccurate and it is only through the reasoning and interpretation of a Secondary Source that truth can be ascertained. I give you an example of what I mean. I am doing a series of biographies of Civil War soldiers from my town. One of the sources I use is a direct interview with the veteran--usually at a regimental reunion. A direct interview is a Primary Source but, with all his old comrades listening in, a vet often embellished on his post-War career. It is only by examining Secondary Sources--descriptions, reports (not necessarily contemporary) and independent assessments that the truth comes out: the veteran is NOT the mayor of his town, he is a janitor in city hall.
 
Jun 2017
351
maine
#29
County histories. They operate on a subscription basis and enter what ever the subscriber says. Nothing is checked or verified--no matter how ridiculous the submission is. Ironically, they utilize totally Primary Sources.
 
Feb 2019
701
Serbia
#30
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.
I more or less agree on the first part. However we shouldn't take any primary source at face value. If we rely on direct writings of people like Wilhelm Keitel or Napoleon we would technically get an eyewitness account but a heavily twisted, biased one. Napoleon made records of battles with inflated casualties and events, Battle of the Pyramids comes to mind where he wrote down a claim of 20.000 Mameluke casualties while the real number was much lower, likely between 5-9.000. In a case like this secondary sources are a necessity to contextualize and ''clear up'' the primary sources, so to speak and help us understand what really happened better.

On the second part I do not agree. The text above more or less explains why. Why do you consider them ''propaganda''? There are some that genuinely are, but this can also apply to a primary source.

history is subjective, there is nothing as good history books.
How so? Interpretations of history are subjective and some statistics may conflict due to speculation or different sources, but things like ''The British won the Battle of Trafalgar'' are facts that cannot be disputed and are not subjective, ''Trafalgar was decisive'' however is something that can be disputed and argued.
 

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