I have twice previously noted a new book by Peter Charles Hoffer: Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Frauds - American History From Bancroft And Parkman To Ambrose, Bellisles, Ellis, And Goodwin. I was a suspicious of the author, given his background as an ethics worker within the deeply corrupt and incompetent American Historical Association, a body recently headed by a popularizer, James McPherson, and incorporating the Society of American Historians, founded by Allan Nevins, a best-selling plagiarist whose appropriation of student work is still studied today in ethics classes.
This Boston review, however, is making Hoffer look very good, at least from the editorial perspective of this blog, which views Civil War history as a field crippled by dishonesty and incompetence. Consider:
Hoffer contends that his profession "has fallen into disarray" and aims a polemical blast at his fellow historians for condoning sloppy scholarship and an anything-goes ethical climate.
Hoffer accuses the American Historical Association (AHA), where he has served as an adviser on plagiarism and a member of its professional standards division, of abdicating its responsibility to enforce basic scholarly principles in both [popular and academic] realms.
Is the entire historical profession in America, as Hoffer wrote in a recent e-mail, "sailing close to the edge"?
If the history profession has a "town center" that would be the capital of U.S. trade publishing, New York City; and the question is whether Hoffer will ever eat lunch in that town again.
Meanwhile, I'll be looking for his book on lunch break today.
Postscript: bought a signed copy at Baltimore's B&N. Introductory comments promise deeper-than-hitherto look at the individual misdeeds of Goodwin, Ambrose, et al.