It was quite the shock to be strolling through Barnes & Noble yesterday, stopped in my tracks by the big blue book with the giant letters that shouted Arming America.
What? Back in print after Knopf recalled and destroyed all copies?
It was indeed Michael Bellesiles' notorious historical monograph on the origins of the popular gun culture in America in a "corrected" edition with an answer to his critics. Kudos to publishers Soft Skull Press for following the controversy and giving Bellesiles a platform from which to talk back at critics.
But his answer to critics was weak, I thought, as weak as his previous answer to the findings that ousted him at Emory. (Scroll way down the linked page to Bellesiles's response to the report. Here are some responses to his new comments.
I was intrigued, however, by the new publisher's assertion that no pop historians have had to endure the scrutiny this work has endured. Precisely. That is the problem, but not the problem the publisher has framed. I want this kind of scrutiny applied to Civil War historians and I want the successful pretenders at the head of the Civil War publishing industry given the Bellesiles treatment.
What this means for Civil War history (and its writers) will be worth a few posts next week.
NOTE: After Knopf pulled away, it seems a company called Diane issued Arming America as it was, and that is the edition currently on sale through Amazon. Note the 1.5 star rating. This is not the corrected edition, nor have I seen it in stores.