Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Yet another controversy over a famous historian

Today's New York Times carries a story about Rick Perlstein's new book on Reagan. To read the story, click on the book's cover below:


This story raises several important questions and adds a new wrinkle to the publication of historical research: it seems that publishers are now shifting endnotes and footnotes (the heart of historical writing, if you ask me) to websites and away from the printed book. This has caused another historian (of a different political persuasion) to charge Perlstein with plagiarism.

The problem with that charge, though, is that Perlstein has attributed the other historian--but only online. So, the reader has to take an additional step--beyond flipping to the back of the book--and open a website to see the attribution. This leaves room for the original historian to claim plagiarism in the book itself.

What a can of worms this is! What do  you think, gentle readers? Is this a good idea for publishers and historians or are publishers looking for trouble?