Are Scholarly Standards Slipping?

Two recent news items raised questions about scholarly standards now extant in the historic community.

In the U S, publisher Henry Holt & Company recently announced that it was withdrawing from distribution Charles Pellegrino’s new book The Last Train From Hiroshima after the author acknowledged difficulty confirming whether two men quoted in the book actually existed. The author’s PhD was also called into question after the AP made inquiry of Pellegino’s putative university, which could find no evidence such a degree had ever been conferred. “The author of any work of nonfiction must stand behind its content. We must rely on our authors to answer questions that may arise as to the accuracy of their work and reliability of their sources. Unfortunately, Mr. Pellegrino was not able to answer the additional questions that have arisen about his book to our satisfaction,” the publisher stated

In the UK, Hugh Murphy, editor of the century-old journal of maritime history, The Mariner’s Mirror editorialized in November that “for this journal…standards of submissions, particularly from postgraduates and university lecturers, have seriously slipped.” Mr Murphy went on to note that the overall status of history as a separate discipline being taught in UK high schools and colleges is in serious jeopardy, and that historians (in particular maritime historians) have a serious duty to “raise their game” by raising standards, especially in MA courses, or “history” could well disappear entirely.

The message here should be clear to every one of us: we owe it to the field we love, and to those who will (we hope) read what we write, to demand of ourselves nothing but the highest standards of scholarly accuracy and academic rigor.

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