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Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Fraud American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis, and Goodwin
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Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Fraud American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis, and Goodwin

3.61  ·  Rating Details ·  99 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
Woodrow Wilson, a practicing academic historian before he took to politics, defined the importance of history: "A nation which does not know what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today." He, like many men of his generation, wanted to impose a version of America's founding identity: it was a land of the free and a home of the brave. But not the braves. Or the slav ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published July 3rd 2007 by PublicAffairs (first published 2004)
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Mar 23, 2009 Eric_W rated it really liked it
I moved this book higher on my reading list because of the flap over Ginnie Jones' s extensive lifting of material from others and her sloppy attempts at paraphrase on Goodreads. It's an excellent resource on the genesis and practice of plagarism from the perspective of the professional historian.

I have to admit I like popular history, i.e., Tuchman, Nevins, Catton, Goodwin, anything with a narrative not too full of data and graphs although they certainly have a place.(Hoffer would call this con
Hannah Givens
Dec 28, 2015 Hannah Givens rated it really liked it
Read for senior seminar to fulfill the requirement that we learn about professional ethics. A very interesting book, first covering the historiography of American history, then major fraud and plagiarism cases and how they relate to traditional methods of interpretation. That was an insightful connection, between historiographical modes and plagiarizing content.

The ending is weak -- Hoffer seems to be one of those historians who does a lot of handwringing about the establishment and the academy
Meadows13 Meadows
Aug 21, 2011 Meadows13 Meadows rated it liked it
I recommend this book only if you are deeply interested in the topic of history writing. This is actually structured as two books and they're quite different.

The first in a discussion of the history of American history writing. The quasi-trash we were taught in the public schools was actually rather awful when compared with the complexities of actual events and the contributions of anyone except white men. But the 'new history' with its emphasis on the contributions of the full spectrum of acto
An interesting look at the history of American history writing. It surveys how long-standing tensions between celebratory, consensus history writing and a more critical, multiple perspective approach, and between popular and academic history writing, set the stage for recent scandals involving prominent popular historians (eg plagiarism in the cases of Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin).

The stories detailing the misdeeds broke in conservative journals at the time, and conservative pundit
Arapahoe Libraries
Mar 23, 2009 Arapahoe Libraries rated it it was amazing
Historian, Peter Charles Hoffer, traces the history of American history from the beginning of the republic to modern times. From the onset, historians painted a somewhat one-sided picture of the founding of America from relations with existing inhabitants (native Americans) to the treatment of blacks before and after the Civil War. Texts written by Francis Parkman, later by Henry Steele Commager and even popular American history books by the revered, Daniel Boorstin have been less than objective ...more
Louis Picone
Oct 11, 2015 Louis Picone rated it it was amazing
I read this for an assignment for my graduate studies. I had 2 weeks to read it, but I finished it in 5 days because I found it so fascinating. A great read for anyone considering history as a profession as it will illuminate those that came before you as well as inform of the pitfalls to avoid. Also recommended for anyone that just loves to read history or wants to better understand the "history of history."
Dan Gorman
Feb 15, 2016 Dan Gorman rated it really liked it
Solid account of cases of bad history writing – racism, plagiarism, falsified sources, fudged credentials, and sloppy research, from the late 1800s to the mid-2000s. Hoffer is right to argue that academic historians should engage more with popular history and speak up when bad history is published or professional misconduct occurs. He makes a persuasive case that the American Historical Association should resume investigations into accusations of plagiarism and other professional misconduct. (Th ...more
Sep 05, 2014 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read at times, but one that will may seem obscure and pointless to everyone but the community of academic historians. Not helped by the author's quixotic and frankly ludicrous crusade to have historical fiction and movies cite secondary sources. Sections on plagiarism are very good, as is the historical survey of standards concerning attribution in the community of American historians. Strong early chapters but ends with a bit of a whiny whimper.
May 24, 2010 Josh rated it really liked it
A historian tells the story of the lies and plagiarizing done by famous historians. Fascinating. Why do people with so much hard-earned status to lose take these crazy risks? And for what? Because they want to get caught?

It reminded me of one of my favorite books, Great Exploration Hoaxes by David Roberts, which is about accomplished mountain climbers and other explorers who lie and exaggerate their accomplishments, probably knowing they'll be found out.
Oct 12, 2007 Jim rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Author did a pretty good job. Although he is clearly critical of consensus history, I though he was a bit hard on new history. He easily could have been more critical of the right in its attacks, but he seems to want to be nice. Section on Bellisales was good, though a bit weak on Kearns.
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