McPherson's "concentration in time" (cont.)

Yesterday's post was about James McPherson's unattributed use of the ideas of Clausewitz, Jones, and Hattaway in his new book. This post is about a more conventional type of plagiarism.

Take another look at the phrasing below:

** To oppose the enemy's ability to concentrate in space, Lincoln early prescribed the concentration in time of simultaneous advances. - Archer Jones: Civil War Command and Strategy, 1992, p 100

** This concentration in space could be overcome only if the Union employed … concentration in time. - James M. McPherson: Tried by War, p 70

** Another hallmark of Lincoln's conception of military strategy and operations… concentration in time by simultaneous advances… - James M. McPherson: Tried by War, p 269

For decades, McPherson was compelled to enforce Princeton University's plagiarism rules. Here are three examples of plagairism his students would have had to be familiar with. Example one speaks for itself: direct quotation without citation, reference, or quote marks.

Example 2: “Inserting even short phrases from the source into a new sentence still requires placing quotations around the borrowed words and citing the author.”

Example 3: “Almost nothing of [the] original language remains in this rewritten paragraph. However the key idea, the choice and order of the examples, and even the basic structure of the original sentences are all taken from the source.”

McPherson appears to be in violation of Princeton's definition of plagiarism.

McPherson's record on plagiarism is interesting. He defended Stephen Oates against Michael Burlingame's demonstration of Princeton's Example 1 type in a letter to the press. The letter said, "We find no evidence of the appropriation of either the ideas or the language of other scholars without attribution -- the only legitimate test of plagiarism." This link shows Burlingame's extensive, shocking side-by-side evidence against Oates (to which McPherson was reacting).

In a more recent embarassment, McPherson bestowed the praise of uniqueness on the central idea of the book of one of his students, Tom Carhart. Eric Wittenberg posted on this (see the comments especially). So did Scott Hartwig and a New Jersey intellectual property lawyer (here and here).

Was McPherson - a high-end Gettysburg tour guide - unfamiliar with the literature of Gettysburg? That should not surprise.

In the case of Oates, McPherson's endorsement of plagiarism was perverse. In the case of Carhart, it was probably ignorant. In his own relationship with the material of Clausewitz, Jones, and Hattaway, his takings appear willful.