As if Stephen Ambrose’s reputation wasn’t already as low as it could go.

19 04 2010

From The New Yorker (via Silbey):

Nonfiction writers who succumb to the temptations of phantom scholarship are a burgeoning breed these days, although most stop short of fabricating interviews with Presidents. But Stephen Ambrose, who, at the time of his death, in 2002, was America’s most famous and popular historian, appears to have done just that.

Plagiarism wasn’t enough, apparently he faked interviews with Dwight D. Eisenhower and used them for the rest of his life whenever he felt like making a point for which he had no evidence. I’m so proud we we went to the same grad program!

Here’s my Stephen Ambrose story: While I was in grad school at Wisconsin, he came back to his alma mater for a semester to teach World War II. I never talked to him, but I knew one of his teaching assistants. Apparently, he gave an entire lecture on trenchfoot and refused to acknowledge any Soviet contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Perhaps that’s why the History Department at Madison didn’t need to know that he was a plagiarist to never invite him back.

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4 responses

28 04 2010
STEVE PERRET

That’s funny, since at UNO, Dr Ambrose would say , over and over, “never forget, the Red Army killed 8 out of 10 German soldiers in WWII”. The jealousy of Dr Ambrose never ceases to Amaze me in acedemia. There will be a defense of these assertions, and they will be proved to be groundless. Unfortunately for Mr Rives and The Eisenhower Library, he will be discredited, and the repercussions will reach Abilene, KS.

28 04 2010
Simon Read

To the previous poster . . . Eisenhower’s own son told the New Yorker there’s no way Ambrose spent as much time with Dwight as was claimed in the biography. He also said Ambrose was prone to embellishment at the expense of accuracy.

I find it strange that so many are willing to defend a guy who has been exposed more than once as a fraud. The Oregonian has a story, detailing how Ambrose told a local WW2 vet to “go to hell” after the vet questioned the veracity of Ambrose’s research.

Let’s face it: The guy was a hack. There are better WW2 historians out there, including Anthony Beevor, Max Hastings, and Rick Atkinson.

13 05 2011
Robert Hux

What I see here is professional jealousy rearing its’ ugly head. As a student of Dr. Ambrose for several semesters at UNO, I found his instruction to be of a very high quality, and directly to the point. And, as one not to blindly follow, I was able to reference material brought out by him.

I believe the main issue here is that his success bred envy in the world of academia, and as of yet, they have not found a way to deal with it.

BA Loyola Univ at New Orleans ’98
Phi Alpha Theta Int’l History Honors Society
Phi Theta Kappa
Nat’l Dean’s List for Southern Univ’s

17 05 2011
Matthew

How can this be described as professional jealousy when Ambrose has been nailed multiple times for plagiarism? These aren’t unfounded allegations, but serious and well-documented breaches in academic protocol.

It’s insane that people (especially those in academia) still insist on defending this guy when he’s been exposed multiple times as a fraud. If a college student ever pulled the kind of stuff Ambrose did in his books, they would receive a failing grade.

Plagiarism aside, Ambrose–at least when it comes to the Second World War–didn’t write history . . . he wrote hagiography. His book D-Day, while filled with good first-hand accounts, is rife with factual errors. The guy has distorted WW2 history, presenting the conflict as something akin to a John Wayne movie. Anyone with a deep understanding of the Second World War can see the guy didn’t have a firm, objective grasp on the subject matter.

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