More Researchers Behaving Badly

You know, it’s just been six months since the story of a reported forgery of a Lincoln document broke.  So here we go again …

I confess to having never heard of Barry H. Landau before today.  Indeed, “presidential historian” as a category within the profession has been circulating for only a few decades: I have not seen it as a field in graduate programs, although it have found it a useful label for those of us who study multiple presidents (writing on a single president should not make one a “presidential historian,” any more than writing on one war makes one a “military historian” as opposed to, say, a “Civil War historian”).  Just over a week ago, Mr. Landau was holding forth with CNN on how presidents employ the United States flag.  Now he’s in a bit of trouble … charged (with another person) of attempting to steal documents from the Maryland Historical Society, including documents bearing the signature of … you guessed it … Abraham Lincoln (you mean you didn’t guess it?).

I’m always waiting to hear the outrage that would follow from someone trying to make away with James Buchanan’s little black book or Chester Alan Arthur’s clothing inventory.

Beware of researchers bearing cupcakes and cookies, apparently.  No word on whether scotch or brandy would be more effective.

6 thoughts on “More Researchers Behaving Badly

  1. Jeff Davis July 12, 2011 / 4:24 pm

    IMHO, calling someone an historian does not necessarily mean that person is published. I would think that someone trained as an historian who writes about a single war or battle has certainly earned the distinction of “Military Historian and author”, simply used as a distinction from, for example, a Language Historian, or a Lincoln Historian, or a Reconstruction Historian. It merely indicates a focus, and as we know, foci can be large or miniscule [note all the micro-histories about the Battle of Gettysburg]. That said, How would you categorize David MacCullough?

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 12, 2011 / 5:03 pm

      Not necessarily. If they wrote about an aspect of the military history of the Civil War, and nothing else, “Civil War military historian” would do just fine. But you aren’t a “presidential historian” just because you wrote a book on Franklin Pierce. You would be “Pierce biographer Jeff Davis.”

      I see McCullough as a historian, pure and simple.

  2. tonygunter July 12, 2011 / 4:43 pm

    Is it just me, or does this story just scream “I Love You Phillip Morris?”

  3. Stephen Mccullough July 12, 2011 / 8:39 pm

    I have to admit when I saw McCullough, my head swelled. Then I realized it wasn’t me.

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