What Are Some Examples of Bad History Books?

Mar 2018
728
UK
#51
I completely agree. Modern scholarship is incredibly important for anyone who wants to take history seriously. Primary sources are paramount as well, but it is naive and cocky to the extreme for one to think that simply reading the primary sources will tell them all they need to know. Historians are trained to read primary sources critically and apply historiographical methods to come up with plausible conclusions about the past and to interpret sources and history. This is why modern scholarship is so valuable. The sort of people who dismiss all scholarship as 'propaganda' tend to be intellectually dishonest and in the pursuit of agendas that for probably good reason do not receive the support of modern scholarship.
Of course, nobody on this forum would ever fall under that category. I cannot think of a single poster in all my time here that could be thought of as intellectually dishonest and who approached history with a pre-formed conclusion in their mind that they want to push. That sort of thing is clearly impossible on an internet forum...
 
Feb 2019
614
Serbia
#52
Of course, nobody on this forum would ever fall under that category. I cannot think of a single poster in all my time here that could be thought of as intellectually dishonest and who approached history with a pre-formed conclusion in their mind that they want to push. That sort of thing is clearly impossible on an internet forum...
Totally, we totally do not see them here frequently and we have not debated one of these people less than 2 months ago.
 
#53
Of course, nobody on this forum would ever fall under that category. I cannot think of a single poster in all my time here that could be thought of as intellectually dishonest and who approached history with a pre-formed conclusion in their mind that they want to push. That sort of thing is clearly impossible on an internet forum...
I know of no such person, but if I did, I dare imagine that they would dismiss all scholarship as Eurocentric. Just a hunch.
 
Jul 2007
1,663
Australia
#54
Yep - that's her./ Too mush of what she thinks and feels and very light on fact (or sometimes too much unnecessary fact to cover up a lack of content) - her non-fiction oftens reads like fiction, and contains a number of basic errors that someone who claims to have done their research should not have made.

For me, she is the modern-day Agnes Strickland.
 
Jul 2019
107
New Jersey
#55
I absolutely agree re: Alison Weir. I read both her book on King Henry VIII and on Queen Elizabeth. Suffice it to say i did not enjoy them. There were some useful facts and quotes but by and by large they were poorly written and organized.
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,538
#56
Anything produced by the Dunning School.

Historian Eric Foner, a leading specialist, said:

The traditional or Dunning School of Reconstruction was not just an interpretation of history. It was part of the edifice of the Jim Crow System. It was an explanation for and justification of taking the right to vote away from black people on the grounds that they completely abused it during Reconstruction. It was a justification for the white South resisting outside efforts in changing race relations because of the worry of having another Reconstruction.​
All of the alleged horrors of Reconstruction helped to freeze the minds of the white South in resistance to any change whatsoever. And it was only after the Civil Rights revolution swept away the racist underpinnings of that old view—i.e., that black people are incapable of taking part in American democracy—that you could get a new view of Reconstruction widely accepted. For a long time it was an intellectual straitjacket for much of the white South, and historians have a lot to answer for in helping to propagate a racist system in this country.​


Dunning School - Wikipedia
 
Sep 2012
1,079
Taiwan
#57
  • f0ma

    f0ma

An awful lot of guff published in my field, where nationalism runs rife in some circles of Chinese and Korean academia. This was both amusing and unsettling to come across recently. That said, a lot of the newfangled postmodern histories published in the Anglophone sphere are equally questionable in my mind, especially some of the more radical environmental and eco-histories that I read.

Although on the topic of books that are just bad, rather than irrevocably biased, this one got some pretty scathing reviews. I have half a mind to pick it up sometime, just so I can have a bit of a chuckle. I always advocate for more narrative, general history, as I fear we often miss the forest through the trees sometimes, but when you can't even read the language your sources are written in... Different perhaps in some areas, where English translations of primary texts are more abundant (I hear ancient Greece and Rome are quite well served), but you can't really get away with it with China.
 
Dec 2009
4,751
Blachernai
#58
Although on the topic of books that are just bad, rather than irrevocably biased, this one got some pretty scathing reviews. I have half a mind to pick it up sometime, just so I can have a bit of a chuckle. I always advocate for more narrative, general history, as I fear we often miss the forest through the trees sometimes, but when you can't even read the language your sources are written in... Different perhaps in some areas, where English translations of primary texts are more abundant (I hear ancient Greece and Rome are quite well served), but you can't really get away with it with China.
This guy doesn't give up! He wrote a crappy book on Byzantium a year or two before this one.
 
Likes: f0ma
#59
Probably anything by Marc Morris - trying to be accessible to the mystical subterranean reader.
The only one that I've read by him is The Norman Conquest.
I found his tone annoying, but then I ain't British.
His insistence (based on little save the later panegyrics of William's followers) that Edward the Confessor granted William the right to succession after King Edward's death is more in the line of Historical Fiction than History, imo. For one thing: that is not the way it worked. Even with a son, the Witenagemot (if I should ever have cause to reference that assembly again: 'the Wit') had the final say on that.
Also, the sly digs at Snorre for writing about Harald Hardrada '...centuries afterwards..' sound a bit silly. I mean, how many more centuries later did Morris write? ;) My point is: Snorre's saga contains some fictional, 'tall tale' elements, no doubt, but it also is filled with background information from sources that we know existed, but are now lost. And is an engrossing read.
To be fair: Morris' book contains a deal of valuable, well-sourced stuff about the Harrowing of the North, etc.
Interesting Thread.
OFF-TOPIC:
The mention of the writers of Historical Fiction led me to speculate about the manner in which Historical Fiction sometimes does a better job than History per se at capturing the dynamics of particular eras and milieus. E.G. my youthful fave Kenneth Roberts. Arundel/A Rabble in Arms is a painless and accurate introduction to the American invasion of Canada , the subsequent retreat and the pivotal battle of Saratoga. A decade or so ago the ruins of Benedict Arnold's fleet of gunboats was finally located just about where Roberts, 75 years or so earlier, had speculated.
 

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