Ambrose and plagiarism I wanted

Ambrose and plagiarism
I wanted to comment on the Stephan Ambrose plagiarism story, as it is one area where I have a small bit of qualification (I have a graduate degree in History and have read much of Ambrose?s work). I think the left right issue (raised by Kausfiles) is a stupid one. Oddly enough I think Talking Points is just about right – in other words this was sloppy scholarship and writing that should embarrass Ambrose but not serious plagiarism that should put him outside the pale of respectable scholarship (my paraphrase). I think the likely cause of the mistake is Ambrose’s recent slide from serious scholarship to quick topical books based on the historical record already available. This is all too typical of book publishing. An author gets hot and his publisher naturally wants to get as much product out as he can. Ambrose?s work on Eisenhower, Nixon, Lewis and Clark, the Transcontinental Railroad, and World War Two are all readable, enjoyable, and scholarly work. His recent spat of WWII works, however, seem to be increasingly focused on speed rather than precision. If you are putting out a book a year it is likely that you are not doing research but rather compiling material – hence Ambrose?s slide towards journalistic history and/or works made up of secondary source material. I am sure Ambrose has a great deal of material on WWII but does he need to constantly be issuing books focused on smaller and smaller areas of the war? It looks like his rush to publish has finally caught up with him. (BTW – The riddicuous number of books on the Cival War, World War II, and Vietnam, often linked to the lack of popular works on other subjects, frustrates some historians. The Greatest Generation hoopla has only added to this problem. Although I see some merit in this critique, I am a fan of Ambrose?s work.)

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).


  1. I have read the wild Blue and Nothing like it in the world and have seen Stephan Amrose on TV many times. I enjoyed his history and the mans personality. I too think the plagerism charge was overdone. We all miss this auther greatly.

  2. The transcontinental railway book was considerably more sloppy and repetitive than the Lewis and Clark book.

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