Debating DiLorenzo: Court Historians

In 2008 Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo explained to Brian Lamb what he meant by the term “court historian”:

LAMB: I want to break down the first sentence a little bit more, what’s a ”museum quality specimen court historian” you write about court historians a lot?

DILORENZO: Well, a court historian is somebody who’s sort of on the payroll of the king so to speak and so writes in support – provides intellectual support for what the king wants to do. Of course, we don’t have a king, we have a president, and a congress. But that’s what a court historian is meant, somebody who writes sort of propaganda to prop up the state to make the state look a little better than it really is.

LAMB: Who are some of the others?

DILORENZO: Well, I think, when I write about the church of Lincoln, a lot of what motivates, I think, a lot of the so called Lincoln scholars is using the whole Lincoln legend to prop up their version of the state. In my book ”Lincoln Unmasked” I mention Eric [Foner – BDS ed.] who’s a well known Columbia Historian – Columbia University Historian, been on television a lot on Civil War wars.

And I quote him in an article in 1991 in ”The Nation” magazine where he opposed the breakup of the Soviet Union and the title of the article was ”Lincoln’s Lesson” he had basically argued that Gorbachev was a softy. He allowed the Soviet Republics to secede peacefully but our Abraham Lincoln would not have done that. And he was apparently upset about that. And so he’s using, sort of the Lincoln legend to promote his agenda of big centralized government. He’s a self described Marxist among historians. And as a Marxist he’s probably not a fan to decentralized government.

And so – and then on the right, of course, there’s a lot of people on the right like Newt Gingrich, for example, had an article in the – he’s a historian, a Ph.D. in history, an article in the “Wall Street Journal” online a couple of years ago advocating that we, Americans, invade Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria and North Korea, and I think the title of the article was ”Lincoln and Bush.” And he started out with a quotation of Abraham Lincoln and, again, he was trying to attach the reputation of Lincoln to his agenda, Newt Gingrich’s agenda of invading all of these countries with a military occupation.

And so you have people on both sides of the political spectrum that I’ve written about that I call court historians that try to use history, the history of Lincoln, in particular, to try promote their own particular agenda whatever it is, left and write [right--BDS].

Crossroads Comments:  I am at a loss as to what to make of this section.  Really.  Somehow Dr. DiLorenzo transitions from the concept of “court” historians (as opposed to “Lincoln cultists,” I guess) to two people who simply don’t fit that description.  Eric Foner’s written on many subjects, and so to turn him into some sort of Lincoln court historian is, frankly, ridiculous.  Moreover, if one actually reads Eric’s first book, one gains a far greater appreciation for the economic appeal of the Republican party and how that was interlaced with its antislavery appeal, topics you would think would interest DiLorenzo.  To hop from Foner to fiction author and occasional political figure Newt Gingrich and to call him a court historian because he simply follows the practice of many American political figures (from all parts of the political spectrum) in invoking Lincoln as a justification for a policy he’s advocating simply betrays a basic misunderstanding of both American history and politics.

However, I should note that this is one of the few places where DiLorenzo displays a sense of humor:

And so you have people on both sides of the political spectrum that I’ve written about that I call court historians that try to use history, the history of Lincoln, in particular, to try promote their own particular agenda whatever it is, left and write [right--BDS].

If court historians use history to bolster their own political views and to promote their own political agenda, then guess who’s a court historian?  Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo.

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One thought on “Debating DiLorenzo: Court Historians

  1. Pingback: Who is Thomas DiLorenzo arguing with, anyway? | The Abraham Lincoln Institute

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