Random House Cancels Historian's Book Contract For Not Writing About Black Historians

Richard Cohen added 18,000 words on Black historians, but his contract was still cancelled.


Professors make their living by writing. Sure, they teach and perform service. But the most important way that scholars advance their career is through the printed word. If professors cannot publish, their careers will be brief. Publication, however, is not a unilateral affair. Rather, authors must work with journals, book publishers, and other outlets. Specifically, professors must convince editors that a given work is worthy of publication. Different outlets use different criteria to determine publication. Some academic journals employ peer review, and consider whether an article will make a contribution to the literature. Popular presses are concerned about ideas, but also want to sell books. Even after a publication offer is made, running through the editorial gauntlet is not a pleasant process. Editors often make unreasonable demands on both style and substance. Still, virtually all editors will defer to the author on a foundational issue: what topics are worthy of discussion, and what topics can be omitted. When a journal makes an offer of publication, the journal is expressing some level of trust in the author, based on his or her expertise.

This lengthy background brings us to another troubling cancellation story. Richard Cohen is a prominent author. He has spent nearly a decade writing a new book, The History Makers. The manuscript stretched more than 750 pages. Random House of America gave Cohen a $350,000 contract. (That number is about 100 times more than my payment from Cambridge University Press). Alas, Random House has now cancelled the contract. Why? According to the U.K. Guardian, Cohen did not write enough about black historians:

Richard Cohen was told by his publisher to produce new chapters and expand others after failing to sufficiently acknowledge the roles of black people and African Americans.

"It was to do with the publisher's sensitivities," says Cohen, who previously wrote the highly praised Chasing The Sun and How to Write Like Tolstoy. "I was then asked to write more, and have done about another 18,000 words." Now, despite the rewrite, publication of the book in the US has been cancelled, according to sources in New York.

In the past, Cohen would have written his book, and other historians would have written critical reviews for his failure to write about black history. Then, people could decide the value of Cohen's book. But now, the publisher preemptively canceled the book to avoid this sort of criticism. If Cohen's manuscript didn't meet Random House's editorial standards, the proposal could have been denied. Today, there is an additional diversity requirement.

Last week, I observed that law review editors may start asking editors to cite more diverse authors. This trend will grow, more and more. Unless author are willing to walk away form publication offers, they will be cudgeled into submission. The freedom of thought will be constrained in ways that are not publicly visible.

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  1. This is disturbing — what are his legal options at this point?
    Who owns the book — can he get it published elsewhere or self-publish it? And who gets the $350K — which, if he put 10 years into it, only comes to $35K/year.

    Part of the problem is the consolidation in the publishing industry — see: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-big-publishing-conso_b_9395642 — and at some point, anti-trust issues start to arise.

    But the larger issue is the woke mandates and this is not going to end well.

    1. _The Guardian_ raised another twist to this — his book is still being published in England, so what are the import rules?

      I’m also reminded of authors such as Henry Miller whose books were literally smuggled back to the US and suspect it will be like Cuban sugar which people used to smuggle back from Canada, probably still do.

      1. The Supreme Court ruled that importing legally printed books did not violate copyright law. Somebody had been taking advantage of price discrimination — the Asian edition of a book was cheaper than the American editions.

        1. Tried to get it on Amazon.co.uk for £10.

          We’re sorry, we could not complete your purchase. The Kindle Store on Amazon.co.uk is for UK customers only. To shop for titles available for your country/region, please visit Amazon.com.

          Also saw this:
          To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
          by Dr Seuss | 1 Aug 1987
          4.2 out of 5 stars 84

          1. So, the region system they created for DVDs has spread to Ebooks, too? That’s sad, though not shocking.

            Probably the biggest downside of digital media has been the way it enabled games like that.

            1. That’s long been the case. And it’s trivially easy to get around with a decent VPN.

              It can be a bit trickier to order physical goods depending on whether the outlet filters at the front end based on IP or at the backend based on ShipToAddress but even that can be legally evaded if you’re willing to put in the effort.

              1. So were DVD region codes, if you knew what you were doing.

                1. Isn’t there an issue getting them to play because Europe uses 50 cycle power and we use 60 cycle, or was it something else?

                  1. No.
                    It supposedly allowed studios to have different distribution dates and partners in different parts of the world. So things like allowing a USA DVD release while the movie was still in theaters in China, or allowing $8 retail in Africa and $25 retail in the US for the same DVD.

                  2. Europe used a different TV encoding scheme, (PAL instead of NTSC) which mattered at one time, but I usually ran into it in in the context of trying to view DVDs from Japan, which also uses NTSC, but is in a different region.

                    Fortunately the engineers designing the firmware for the DVD players would include Easter Eggs, special code sequences you could use to reset the region, and leak them by back channels after the products shipped.

    2. If they decline to publish, do the rights revert to the author? See the contract here. They do with 90 days’ notice.

      Go on every TV show to smash the publishers, and to generate publicity. Say, the omitted references were too low quality. Then, self publish on a website. Forget Amazon. Deliver in a second by download. Charge $9.95. Keep the entire sum.

      I am boycotting Coke, and all other woke corporations, as is half the country. Cadillac can get their business from minority females with that offensive commercial.

      1. One would have to read the contract.
        When I signed my book contract the publish agreed that I could retain copyright to the text but could not distribute their exited version with their layouts. That sounded fair to me.

    3. If $350,000 seems low for a ten-year project, the author should have written faster!

  2. I’m curious about which part of the contract they invoked.

    Was this a question of the author simply neglecting John Hope Franklin and other black historians (I presume W. E. B. Du Bois’ work on the slave trade would count)? Obviously, that would be against at least the spirit of a contract to write a comprehensive history of historians, especially if we’re focusing of life-stories which might interest readers.

    OR…are we talking about an author who did indeed cover black historians, but not obsequiously enough for Random House’s taste?

    Not having read the manuscript or the contract, I don’t know what’s going on, it’s just that I find it difficult to believe that a modern academic would deliberately slight the contributions of black people in any serious sense.

    1. This is a publishing contract template. They have the right with 90 days’ notice. I would not return the advance since it was spent on the work already. The labor was done.

    2. Cal, do you suppose Cohen is an academic?

        1. And while you’re re-reading my post, I’ll simply repeat something I said below – “his “day job” wasn’t as an academic but as a publisher and Olympic-level sword fighter.”

          1. Oh, I see, I at first assumed he was indeed an academic, whereas he was in fact merely a member of the Royal Society of Literature. My mistake. You got me bang to rights.

            1. You see, this is one of the rare instances where you responded to something I actually said, so I was off my game for a second.

    3. I am not sure you even understand the situation. As far as I can tell, Cohen gets to keep the advance (that’s why it’s an advance) and Random House is simply not going to publish the book. If I hire you to paint a picture for me and then I end up not hanging the picture, can you force me to hang the picture anyway? Usually not.

      Blackman’s framing was singularly unhelpful. Blackman talks about academics and “publish or perish.” But this book was commissioned from a publisher-journalist with no particular predisposition to be good at the job. He wrote a manuscript that the American publisher seems to have judged would not sell. In that case, it makes perfect sense to pull out and save the printing and marketing costs. I am guessing they had hoped this would be a book-club book and perhaps assigned by some high school teachers, but now it would not.

      Again, the point of this kind of book is to make money for the publisher. And what makes a publisher successful is picking the authors and topics that will sell, supporting them with good editors, and marketing them appropriately.

      The author’s a former publishing executive himself and is married to an agent, so it’s hard to conclude that he’s some kind of rube being taken advantage of.

      1. Yeah, I came to the post expecting to see somebody cancelled for political incorrectness and I got a routine publishing decision with no serious harm.

  3. Free market. Publishers can print or not print what they want. If the authors don’t like it they can use different publishers and if the consumers don’t like it they can refuse to buy books from those publishers.

    1. Why don’t more people understand that catch and kill is a totally respectable publishing technique?

      1. It appears to be legal, but that does not make it respectable.

      2. “Catch and kill” amounts to using copyright law to directly defeat its purpose spelt out in the Constitution (= getting new creations and discoveries into the hands of the public). Courts should refuse to enforce copyright when so used.

    2. That’s why it would be better to cut the publishers out and let them go out of business. They are worthless.

    3. Normally, you may be correct.

      The issue here is the contract for the book that was presumably signed by both parties, and agreed upon. Random House knew exactly what it was getting. It’s own description on its webpage doesn’t include a single black person. The requested edits they wanted were made. I mean, you can still pre-order the book from Random House’s own website


      To back out at this stage…when so much is actually done already…all the marketing, preorders, etc. 10 years of work on the author’s end…This burns relationships like nothing else and triggers all sorts of penalty clauses if the authors are wise.

      1. How about a defamation suit?

        Were he a professor, his university would likely have pre-ordered multiple copies of it based on the publisher’s announcement. His library likely would have ordered three (circulating, non-circulating and special collections), his department likely would order a couple, the faculty club might order one, the system office probably would order a few — all because he is a professor there.

        I don’t know about now with public web listings, but in an earlier era it was someone librarian’s job to routinely order a specified number of copies of any book any professor on campus wrote, to IDT (bill) the various entities and sending the books through the campus mail when they arrived. Well, cancelling an InterDepartmental Transfer is a nightmare so this isn’t going to not be noticed….

        Then the fundraising/development/alumni folk tend to nurture and cultivate major donors so they would have ordered a few *cases* of his book to distribute to big-money donors with an interest in history — and would have told said donors that they’d be sending it. They well may have gotten donations on the basis of this book — the message being that this was an indication of the quality of their institution, which a lot of donors would see it as.

        Well, when they can’t produce a copy of the book because it didn’t get published, there are relationships burned in dimensions that you aren’t even thinking off — and with far bigger money as well.

        So the professor not only has been defamed but has a lot of people at his institution p*ssed at him — that’s real harm. Tenured professors have found themselves out of a job for less, and that’s without the publisher implying that he is a racist.

        IANAA but believe that any professor finding himself/herself/itself in such circumstance would be a damn fool not to talk to one. Legally, I don’t know — but in terms of “boots on the ground” reality, there is real defamation here.

        1. My bad: It wasn’t a librarian, it was someone in the campus bookstore whose job it was. I know this because I once had to track her down and ask her to order me a book, which she was kind enough to do, although it took her a while to figure out how to bill me for it as you couldn’t IDT a student.

          The web makes it a lot easier, but people knew what books were in the pipeline (and made decisions on that information) back in the days of snailmail (although I do remember mention of a “teletype” that expedited things).

        2. Since the 1. The author isn’t a professor and 2. There is no indication the publisher made a false statement of fact about him, this seems to be about as relevant as your typical claptrap.

      2. “Random House knew exactly what it was getting.”

        The author was forthright enough to declare, ‘I am writing a racist book for you?”

        1. Just who is the racist? The writer who researched history without regard to race OR a writer and editor who have an undeclared quota for allocation of history specifically based upon race? Intolerance in the name of tolerance is not virtuous or more noble than intolerance from ignorance. Intolerance is unacceptable regardless of the race, sex, national origin, or religion of the person being intolerant.

          1. ” The writer who researched history without regard to race ”

            Which writer is that?

          2. The writer who researched history without regard to race….is extremely bad at history and should not be writing a book about it.

            1. LTG,
              It is fabulous that you can make such a pronouncement without seeing the book or seeing the contract based only on your belief that all history is racial history.

              1. It’s floridalegal’s hypo.

              2. Don Nico criticizes LawTalkingGuy’s “pronouncement” but declines to evaluate floridalegal’s (unqualified and unsupported) declaration.

                Clingers need to stick together, I guess, in modern America.

                1. RAK,
                  If you had a bidet, you’d have less problems with clingers.
                  Oh wait… we all have President Joseph Bidet.

            2. Yes, and if you treat all people equally, you are discriminating. How Orwellian.

              1. Way to jerk your knee.

                Now, read the post again. LTG is talking about race as a subject, and yeah, history does include some bits about race it would be silly to ignore.

    4. Whether they must print and distribute a number of copies depends on the details of the contract.
      Similarly with respect to any rights pursuant to teh return of advances.
      You just cannot make a blanket statement Molly.

  4. It seems to me the legal question is who breached first. Did his contract require him to write about black historians? If not, and the publisher is now seeking to add a new condition after the contract was agreed to, they may not be able to cancel it. I’m very curious as to what the contract terms are.

    1. There are also the morality clauses being inserted into contracts, some of which are so extensive & egregious that I have refused to sign a few. (Full disclosure: I also wasn’t being offered six figures.)

      See: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/76733-in-the-metoo-moment-publishers-turn-to-morality-clauses.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly&utm_campaign=dac93f591d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_04_30&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0bb2959cbb-dac93f591d-305373921

      1. You just reminded me of an episode of Murphy Brown (original series) where Murphy Brown discovers her contract has an appearance clause.

    2. There is no reason to believe there was a breach by either party. I’m sure the publisher had some right to change its mind. All we know here is the book is not being published. We do not know if the author keeps the $350,000 or the US rights revert to him.

      1. It probably doesn’t apply here, but in most cases involving academic books (as Josh Blackman points out), the author is more interested in having his/her/its work published (and on a CV) than in whatever revenue it may produce. “Publish or perish” is real, particularly for those on a tenure track who haven’t yet obtained tenure — and with post-tenure review, increasingly for those who have it.

        For those outside academia, your annual review consists of an evaluation of your “Research”, “Teaching”, and “Public Service” — with teaching actually being considered the least important of the three. (This is part of why I am convinced higher education is mortally wounded — teaching is what people are paying for….)

        For the past 20-30+ years, “research” has been considered the most important, and publication is documentation of research.

        Hence I trust you can see the harm of “catch & kill” in such circumstances.

        1. So what does it mean if it is published in England? Does that count toward “publish or perish?”

          1. Well you definitely can list it on your CV (Curriculum Vitae) and then it depends on who is reading your CV as you have to list the principal city of the publisher (like with any book), using whatever style guide your field uses (mine is APA).

            Then it comes down to how closely your CV is read — it definitely would raise questions with the answer being worse, and that presumes that you hadn’t already told your dean that Random House would be publishing it. And assuming (a) that word of the cancellation didn’t come through the grapevine and (b) no SJW tipped off the the dean.

            This is where the accusation is worse than the crime.

        2. “the author is more interested in having his/her/its work published”
          If I could keep the $350K I’d be willing to have the publisher deep-six the book (subject to some conditions on my use of materials for instruction).

          1. After 10 years of work on the book? And knowing you’re foregoing the royalties on it from something which is already a #1 in a subset of Amazon?


            1. AND when you could lose a cushy 6-figure faculty slot, with a cushy pension (80% in MA) coming after that????

            2. As I said, subject to certain conditions such as I retain the copy right and any and all rights to distribution.

              BTW the advance is against one’s royalties. We don’t know how large those were or the conditions on distribution. And not being in the business I have no idea of what the expected sales are.

              Your comments don’t impress me as coming from an expert litigator, but perhaps you are just being cautious.

              1. “As I said”….

                “subject to some conditions on my use of materials for instruction”

                That’s a far cry from retaining all rights to distribution and the copyrights…. You’ve majorly changed the conditions.

                1. AL,
                  “subject to some conditions on my use of materials for instruction”
                  that was my condition with my publisher for my book.

                  ” retaining all rights to distribution and the copyrights” that was what I’d expect if a publisher duck out of a contracted work that took 10 years to complete.

                  1. Your thread is not entirely clear, if that’s what you meant.

                    What you posted was: “If I could keep the $350K I’d be willing to have the publisher deep-six the book (subject to some conditions on my use of materials for instruction).”

                    With this phrasing, it implies you’re talking about if you were in Cohen’s shoes. Notably, you use “the” book, not “my” book. And you weren’t offered $350K. Presumably for such a hefty amount, you’d expect to put far more work in…like 10 years.

                    1. I was not offered $359K. And while I have taught the material of this course eight times, I wrote the book in four months not 10 years.

            3. The royalties – $350,000 (‘s Advance against Royalties and All).

              TBH, I am slightly skeptical that this is a psyop marketing campaign to drive up the sales of a (now) “controversial” book.

              We’ll see if it eventually published after “backlash,” and “pouncing,” and so on that the publisher can now say they publish “flashpoint” modern academic works.

    3. Most likely it’s not something as specific as black historians (since these were added after the edits).

      More likely, there’s a clause in the contract that requires the manuscript to meet the editorial standards of Random House. These are put into place in order to ensure that an author doesn’t submit just an entirely crap manuscript and then says “OK give me my advance, I’m done” And Random House is left holding the bag with something it can’t publish.

      What I’m guessing happened is that Random House used that “editorial standards” clause to cancel the contract. But NOT because it didn’t meet the editorial standards, but because the book wasn’t “woke” enough for the publisher in the current environment. Keep in mind, this book has been in development for 10 years.

      Now, if Cohen is feeling particularly vindictive, he’ll sue Random House, and try to get discovery on the e-mails from the Random House publishing, in order to determine exactly WHY they cancelled his contract. And if he can prove it wasn’t for “editorial standards” (or whatever clause was used), but for a different reason, there may be big bucks there.

      The problem with that strategy is that no publisher would touch him afterwards.

      1. Would there be a way to quietly arbitrate the matter, out of the limelight? Or does the good professor simply need to suck it up?

        1. Depends on teh contract, if it has an arbitration clause of if the publisher will agree to arbitration.

      2. The problem with this is that emails are easily erased, and there (usually) is no way to prove that they weren’t. I personally ran into this with a university — a public university where these were also public documents.

        All I was able to obtain were copies of emails that various persons had themself saved, and even then a lot of them were “call me when you have a chance” type emails.

        Maybe the private sector is different, but when you have the opportunity to make a problematic email disappear with the push of a single key, what rational basis is there to believe that wasn’t done???

        1. The private sector is subject to things like spoliation rules, and above mom and pop level generally uses standard systems that irreversibly back up everything in real time. Failure to have done so if you end up in a legal proceeding is pretty serious, after all; The government’s own courts don’t extend the private sector much slack.

          I understand the government sector is theoretically required to be similarly strict about data retention, but the last time I actually looked at the matter, in the context of the IRS targeting scandal, what I found was more of an evidence destruction policy than a data retention policy.

          1. Lawyers routinely recommend that records be purged after a period of time. Mostly I think to allow them to make arguments in the case of litigations. On the Other had I save all of my records and that has saved me on several occasions.

        2. My own company autodeletes emails after 1 year. They don’t want things hanging around that can cause problems.

          1. I worked for a company where the period was 90 days. We were allowed to save copies of emails where the lawyers could plausibly claim not to find them. If the plaintiffs knew I had the smoking gun document they could demand data from my laptop. Otherwise, goodbye evidence.

      3. ” Now, if Cohen is feeling particularly vindictive, he’ll sue Random House, and try to get discovery on the e-mails from the Random House publishing, in order to determine exactly WHY they cancelled his contract. ”

        If the internal correspondence centered on ‘turn outs this author is a racist wanker, and this book’s appeal may be predicted to be quite limited among modern audiences — except for White supremacists, Klan members, movement conservatives, Republicans, and Volokh Conspiracy fans, who will love it’ would that make you feel better about the publisher’s decision?

        1. I AMNAA but somehow think that would be an A’s wet dream…

        2. Just who is the racist? The writer who researched history without regard to race OR a writer and editor who have an undeclared quota for allocation of history specifically based upon race? Intolerance in the name of tolerance is not virtuous or more noble than intolerance from ignorance. Intolerance is unacceptable regardless of the race, sex, national origin, or religion of the person being intolerant.

          1. ” The writer who researched history without regard to race ”

            Do you have special insight concerning this author’s work and thought, or are you just another right-wing clinger reflexively opposing any claim of vestigial racism in our world?

  5. “research” has been considered the most important.

    And bringing in grants and contracts.

    That makes these research universities fraudulent. Work hard to get admitted because of the names. You see the names an hour a year, and get taught by their assistants. Defrauded.

    1. “You see the names an hour a year, ”
      Speak for your fifth rate college, Behar.

      1. Sorry Don, he’s actually right — and more than he realizes. (Look into administrative overhead on grants…)

        There are professors who teach no classes — and it would be one thing if they had research grants to fund their salaries (and some do), but others don’t…

        The problem is that the students — and more importantly, their parents and the taxpayers — are paying for teaching and they aren’t getting it. What the Wuhan Flu has done is shown us that on-line education isn’t that much worse, and, in some ways, better than the 500-student lecture hall.

        1. Sorry, Ed,
          Berhar is whistling through his hat.
          I know very well what university overheads are. Mine are particularly high. But someone has to support the administration that is tied up in compliance issues and someone has to make up the shortfall in covering administrative costs for faculties in departments that bring in minimal grants or in which grant sizes max out at $50K.

          “The problem is that the students — and more importantly, their parents and the taxpayers — are paying for teaching and they aren’t getting it”
          Then you end your post with a slander that may only apply to RAK’s pet colleges

          1. Sorry, Don,

            You aren’t going to get me feeling sorry for the overpaid bloated administrations of modern academia, nor convince me that any of this is about teaching anymore.

            60 years ago, professors taught “4&4” or 8 classes a year, and semesters were 17 weeks long. Now they teach only half of that — often less — and pre-Wuhan Flu, semesters were only 14 weeks long. Now even shorter…

            Sorry, it ain’t about teaching….

            1. Ed,
              “60 years ago, professors taught “4&4” or 8 classes a year,”
              As in most topics, you are stuck in the past.
              If you want teaching go to a small college.
              If you want much more, such as professional training, making the US a world leader in science and engineering, and mentoring the next generation of world class professionals, go to a major research university.

          2. My agency is actually looking a bit at the incentives our current grantmaking scheme creates in research > education.

            Though I think our solution is more money, not more requirements 😀

            1. IMHO, most of the research money in Education is being wasted.

              1. You’re just trying to dis Dr. Biden.

      2. Donnie. You did really well. After your law school, you know shit from my public high school, 10th Grade World History course. How does it feel to be worthless, and to take so much money for it?

        1. Behar,
          If I wanted to know how it feels to be worthless, I’d ask someone with deep experience, such as David Behar.

  6. Seems that if black historians were a requirement in the contract, he should have written about them.

    If they were not a requirement of the contract, then it’s a change and subject to contract renegotiation. He made a good faith effort to accommodate the changes, which were not acceptable so he gets to keep the advance, and the IP

  7. So just find POC sources to reference. Shoehorn them in even if the are not relevant.

    1. That’s the problem with most K-12 textbooks today — it’s well documented the extent to which space is allocated to marginal/irrelevant individuals at the expense of individuals and issues which are very much relevant.

      This goes all the way back to Betsy Ross and the need of the DAR to have a woman heroine involved in the Revolutionary War, with Abigail Adams being both too complicated and (IMHO) not exactly loyal to the Patriot cause. (I think she would have run into some serious trouble had she been male — she knew *way* too much about the Loyalists…)

      It’s not the inclusions but the omissions that bother me — see: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED485533.pdf

  8. If this person can command a $350,000 advance, and Random House hadn’t put this requirement in the original contract, why can’t he simply walk away, pocket the $350,000, and find another publisher?

    What puts him at the publisher’s mercy? Why does he have any obligation to meet the new requirement? What does he lose if he doesn’t and simply walks?

    Why is this such a big deal?

    1. That appears to be precisely what’s happening.

      Cohen’s wife, the leading US literary agent Kathy Robbins, is urgently seeking a new publisher in the US.

      1. Makes perfectly good sense.

  9. This fiasco made the papers. Random House is woke, boycott.

    History is propaganda. Nero was the Trump of his time. Did great for the common people, and was much admired by them. His depraved reputation is from the history written by his Senate Swamp adversaries.


    I was aghast at the partisan historian analysis of Trump. History is just another garbage subject. Defund them and shut down this garbage profession.

  10. Is this Richard Cohen a Brit? Is he a historian?

    1. Yes. And no, apparently he’s a former Olympic fencer and author/publisher.

  11. Test question for contemporary black historians: was OJ innocent or guilty?

    Dismiss accordingly.

    1. You are dismissed.

  12. This is hard to discuss without seeing the manuscript. But I don’t understand how you could even write a first draft of a book purporting to be about historians and the field of history and basically ignore black history and black historians. How could that happen unless you had zero clue what you were doing?

    1. Questions have been raised over why Cohen – who was a leading publisher in the UK before moving to New York 20 years ago for a second career as a writer – omitted so much black history in the first draft. The teaching of black history at US universities is an integral part of the curriculum, while Black History Month has been running for half a century.

      Until the rewrite was sought, The History Makers was primarily a Eurocentric book. “But that’s how it’s been – as if Africa and the African American had been forgotten,” says Hakim Adi, professor of the history of Africa and the African diaspora at the University of Chichester. “It’s denigrating to the history of the world, and to black people in particular.”

      From the Guardian article Blackman linked.

      1. I read that. So the answer is he had no clue what he was doing?

        1. Perhaps he is a racist and understood precisely what he was doing.

          Or perhaps he is a clueless dinosaur who produced a substandard work consequent to blind spots.

          1. Artie. All -isms are true. They are folk statistics, mostly true, most of the time. Woke deniers will just get the natural consequences. Go ahead, hire a black man to manage your finances, and a Jew for your professional basketball team.

      2. But we are a Eurocentric culture — were we anything else, we’d still have slavery and a lot worse.

        Look at how the Chinese are dealing with their ethnic minorities before you criticize the US. Look at how the North Koreans are dealing with their dissidents (punishing all three generations) before you condemn the USA.

        Even now, could we do better meeting our ideals — absolutely. Have we failed to meet them in the past — again, absolutely.
        But the solution is not to celebrate cultures which don’t even value these ideals…

        Slavery existed in the US because other Africans enslaved the Africans in the first place… Likewise genocidal wars were able to be fought against the Indians because other Indians helped track & find them… We aren’t supposed to mention any of these things anymore, but they are facts….

        1. Yikes this is a horrible take on history.

          Slavery existed in the Americas because the colonizers wanted to use slave labor. They did it of their own volition. No one made them go to Africa and engage in the slave trade.

          Likewise the forced removal/genocide of the native populations occurred because white settlers wanted land and to establish white supremacy. Doesn’t really matter if some natives occasionally helped them or not.

          Honestly it seems like you’re placing blame on slaves and natives for their own oppression because of your white guilt.

          1. Sometime when you are bored, go hike through the wilderness with neither a compass nor a GPS nor a cell phone — and remember that you actually have a map. That the USGS has actually mapped that land for you.

            The slave traders didn’t leave sight of their ship — they’d have been damn fools to do so because that was their *only* ride home. Furthermore, as most of Africa is over 1000 feet above sea level (remember plate tectonics), other than the Nile, it has no navigable rivers. Hence no natural harbors — no safe place to park a ship…

            If other Africans hadn’t captured them and then force-marched them hundreds of miles through lands that Europeans feared to tread, there would have been no slaves to put on those slave ships.

            Likewise, try to find your way through the tangled undergrowth of a second-growth New England swamp. People have died in these, even with helicopters and heat-seeking imagery that shows their body heat through all the brush & leaves.

            Do you honestly believe that someone not familiar with the generational knowledge that the Indians possessed could track someone through this? Really?!?

            And I won’t even get into Black slave owners beyond saying that our Vice President’s Grandfather was one…

            1. I don’t even know how to respond to this nonsense. You make it seem like white colonizers were forced to take slaves (they weren’t) or engage in Indian removal (they weren’t). It doesn’t matter if Africans had forms of slavery (which were different than the chattel regime that developed in the colonies) or that natives helped white settlers kill other natives. It’s like you think the existence of bad actors from other groups automatically absolves every sin committed by white people.

              1. Excuse me, LTG. The Indians were conquered people. They failed to control illegal immigration and lost their nation. No conquered people were ever treated in a more Christian fashion. What other conquered people were granted sovereign reservations, got government aid, and were never slaughtered or enslaved?

                Those Indians took no prisoners except for blonde little girls to be used as sex slaves. They ate the enemy after torturing them. I read the autobiography of a chief.

              2. No, they weren’t forced to take slaves. OTOH, they’d have found it difficult to buy slaves if Africa hadn’t been feeding the pipeline at the other end, and Mr. Ed is right about that: The European slave traders weren’t going out into the wild and capturing people, they were buying them from locals at the shore.

                Which is why slavery didn’t end in Africa once the external slave trade ended.

          2. LTG,
            Did you ever think about who did the gathering up of slaves in Africa, or you have persisted in the prolongation of the slave trade. Seems like you are removing a lot of history to make your political point

            1. The system of slavery we are discussing, and how it got progressively worse as the need for profit and fear of revolt increased, was all Europe.

              That does not absolve Africa of it’s own issues catching and selling it’s own, but lets not ignore it was the colonizers who were in the drivers’ seat here.

              1. It’s incredible how all these not-racists find a way to absolve white Europeans of moral responsibility and proclaim that it’s actually Black Africans fault that there was a brutal system of chattel slavery in the Americas.

                1. You might also think bout the Arab complicity in the “European slave trade.”
                  Slavery in Europe existed for 3,000 years under a variety of rubrics.
                  Rather that throwing barbs how about citing some references about world wide practices of slavery.

            2. Yes. And that didn’t force Europeans to create the middle passage and a system of chattel slavery that lasted well into the nineteenth century.

              1. OTOH, slavery in Africa lasted well into five seconds ago. Not that anybody seems to care. Changing the names of schools is much more important than doing something about slavery going on right now.

                1. Tu quoque is a fallacy, Brett.

                  Ask the State Department if they’re doing nothing about Africa’s legacy of slavery.

                  In the meantime, consider talking about stuff that makes you unhappy rather than pointing over there and declaring everyone who want to keep the focus on our own house to be arguing in bad faith.

                  1. This is hardly a tu quoque, the internet’s most misattributed logical fallacy. “If slavery is so important to you, why don’t you do something about ending it, instead of changing the names of schools?” doesn’t involve claiming to be innocent because somebody else is guilty, which is what tu quoque is about on the rare occasions when it’s accurately identified.

                    1. If slavery is so important to you, why don’t you do something about ending it, instead of changing the names of schools?

                      A fine argument, when the argument is about anti-slavery activism.

                      But that’s not what we’re talking about on this tangent; we’re talking about Ed and Don’s take on the involvement of Africa in the European slave trade.

                      But you very clearly don’t want to talk about that for some reason. This is the second time you’ve tried to change the subject to be about slavery now. As though people can only care about one thing.
                      Start your own tangent elsewhere.

                    2. He doesn’t want to talk about because talking about it raises uncomfortable questions about the legacy of slavery in America today and his own noxious views on the subject.

                    3. I’m perfectly comfortable talking about “the legacy of slavery” in the US. I’d say it’s pretty much nil at this point.

                      What’s disadvantaging blacks in this country is the legacy of the War on Poverty. The legacy of slavery might have set them up for it, but the war on poverty was what really did the damage.

                    4. “I’m perfectly comfortable talking about “the legacy of slavery” in the US. I’d say it’s pretty much nil at this point.”

                      Well that’s just straight up wrong. You truly are bad at history. Like really really bad at it. Also, I’m adding this to the growing catalogue of evidence that you are a huge racist.

    2. “But I don’t understand how you could even write a first draft of a book purporting to be about historians and the field of history and basically ignore black history and black historians. ”

      Here’s a hint.


      1. So he looked at a Wikipedia list and never bothered to read up on historiography? That checks out.

        Also holy crap what a bad list. John Hope Franklin and DuBois aren’t on there but a Holocaust denier named David Hoggan is. SMH.

        1. There are well over 1000 historians on that list.
          There’s also this list, if you like.


          You’ve named 2 African Americans.

          How many Jewish historians should’ve been included in depth?
          How many Irish historians should’ve been included in depth?
          How many Chinese historians should’ve been included in depth?
          How many Korean historians should’ve been included in depth?
          How many Japanese historians should’ve been included in depth
          How many Turkish historians should’ve been included in depth
          How many Palestinian historians should’ve been included in depth
          How many Iranian historians should’ve been included in depth?

          You start to see the problem? Perhaps not.

          1. You think you’re being clever but you’re not. This is why you link to Wikipedia. I actually majored in history and took classes on historiography. I have Peter Novick’s That Noble Dream on my shelf. This isn’t a numbers thing, it’s about telling an accurate history of the development of the historical profession. Black historians changed the profession immensely by bringing black experience to the forefront and changing the way historians of all colors approach certain issues. You can’t talk about slavery without grappling with Eric Williams. Same goes for Reconstruction and DuBois. They’re obviously immensely relevant to the history of Africa. If you don’t include them you’re telling an incomplete and inaccurate story.

            1. “This isn’t a numbers thing” sounds like, ‘Merely proportionate inclusion doesn’t meet my quota.’ You think the black historians are extra important because they’re black, he treats them as… just historians who happened to be black.

              And, somehow, this makes him the racist?

              But, of course, part of the problem here is that we can’t judge the book by reading it because they spiked the book!

              Indeed, the very point of spiking the book.

              1. No I think they’re important because black historians changed how history is approached and done. If you actually understood the discipline of history you would know this. But you have often arrogantly pronounced that you don’t believe professional historians and you think you know more than them even though that’s actually impossible since you don’t do historical research for a living.

                Also I’m not going to be lectured on racism by an actual racist who thinks Black voters are enslaved by Democrats.

                1. “But you have often arrogantly pronounced that you don’t believe professional historians”

                  Professional historians awarded Bellesiles the Bancroft prize after his book had been exposed as a fraud, due to things that even I, not a professional historian, had WTF moments over. (The review by Emory glossed over those things, and concentrated on the stuff they could semi-plausibly claim caught them by surprise.)

                  Indeed, to this day there are still efforts to rehabilitate him, and pretend he was wronged.

                  Professional historians are the most politicized academic discipline, by far, according to surveys of political affiliation of academics. Not surprising, I suppose, after all, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”; I wonder if Orwell would have written 1984 if he’d realized it would be treated as an instruction manual?

                  1. Brett,

                    Let’s do an exercise. I’m going to name five historians. You’re going to say if you know more about the topic than the historian. If you say yes, you will identify how you obtained superior knowledge. You will explain which archives you went to, which primary sources you used, which prior works you engaged with, etc. If you can’t do that, you have to admit that you actually don’t know more than them and that your continuing cry of “but Michael Bellesiles!!!” Is just away for you to disregard everything historians have to say so you can continue clinging to beliefs you don’t want challenged.

                    Eric Foner: Reconstruction
                    Christopher Browning: the Holocaust and Nazi Germany
                    David Brion Davis: slavery
                    Marcus Rediker: Atlantic piracy
                    Natalie Zemon Davis: early modern France

                    1. I don’t have to know more about a topic to know I’m being bullshitted, if I know enough to spot a lie. It’s like demanding somebody know more about kidneys than a urologist in order to complain about being pissed on.

                      Bellesiles’ on the 1792 militia act:

                      “Further, “every citizen so enrolled, shall…be constantly provided with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints,” and other accoutrements. Congress took upon itself the responsibility of providing those guns, and specified that within five years all muskets “shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound.”

                      The actual 1792 militia act: “That every citizen so enrolled and notified, shall within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock: or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder….

                      That wasn’t a typo, the guy deliberately reworded an inconvenient historical cite so that it would conform to his thesis. He made the mistake of doing it with a historical cite that happened to be widely known… Except, apparently, to professional historians.

                      He got caught doing this multiple times, and he got caught before he got the award. At the very least, this should have caused his book to be gone over with a fine toothed comb, not handed a nice prize.

                    2. So the answer is that you know nothing about the historical profession other than that Michael Bellesiles wrote a fraudulent book about guns 20 years ago. That’s literally all you have. It’s the only thing you know about historical writing apparently. And you appoint yourself as smarter than the ENTIRE historical profession. How arrogant is that? It’s absurd. That’s like me saying I’m smarter than the medical profession because of Andrew Wakefield.

                      Please tell me you get that you’re arrogant and out of your depth on this topic.

                    3. No, actually I have TWO data points on professional historians:

                      1) They gave Bellesiles the Bancroft prize after he was exposed.

                      2) Surveys show history is the most politically biased academic field.

                      Neither is a data point about a particular historian, but instead the discipline as a whole.

                      I don’t doubt that historians are, as a general rule, much more reliable than other people about those parts of history which have no significance in modern political fights. An ever shrinking domain, as woke politics expands.

                    4. TWENTY YEARS AGO. It happened twenty years ago, and it has been considered and grappled with historians ad nauseum. But you never care about that part You don’t want to learn anything about the profession because you think you’re better than that for some reason. But you’re not. It just makes you look like someone proud of their ignorance. Just admit you like being ignorant.

                      And did it ever occur to you that their left leaning bias BECAUSE they studied history and formed an accurate understanding of the past? Maybe they reached those conclusions because unlike you, an amateur and dilettante, they took the time to do the work to understand the past. They went to the archives. You didn’t. They studied everything that has been written about the topic. You didn’t.

                      Those historians I named earlier were all left wing writing on topics with a modern political valence and have current topics. But you also don’t know more than them. Just admit it.

                      Eric Foner has different views than you on the Reconstruction Amendments. But you emphatically do not know more than him about Reconstruction and you never will. Admit it.

                      Browning seriously compared Mitch McConnell to Paul von Hindenburg. A very political statement. But that doesn’t change the fact he knows more about Nazi Germany than you ever could and ever will. Just admit it.

                      It’s okay to admit people know more than you even if you disagree with them.

            2. I link to Wikipedia because it’s easy. But I provide links. You don’t seem to.

              I notice that you haven’t cited a single actual AFRICAN historian. Mostly African Americans, with a smattering of Caribbean Africans. For as important as you claim Africa is, why not cite a historian who actually was born and lived in Africa?

              Here’s a hint. You have an overwhelming focus on the unfortunate events of a single minority group in a few new countries, over the course of 350 years or so. However, in the large scheme of things, over 3000 years of history, there’s a lot going on from a lot of other places.

              If the history of the Holocaust was left out of this book, would you be horrified? What about the history of the Armenian Genocide? Cromwell’s genocide of the Irish? The mass deaths of Mao? I can go on…..

            3. But LTG,

              Since you’re a history buff, I’m interested in a little question, if you’ll indulge me.

              Without looking, name 10 people born and raised in sub-Saharan Africa. Any 10 people, any era, they just need to be born and raised in sub-Saharan Africa.

              1. Jomo Kenyatta
                Chinua Achembe
                Julius Nyerere
                Joseph Mobuto
                Patrice Lamumba
                Robert Mugabe
                Steven Biko
                F.O. Shyllon
                Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
                Lupita Nyongo

                1. So, that’s an interesting list, with more than a few names I haven’t heard of, and we can learn a lot from it.

                  To start with, you don’t have a single person born before 1900 on it. You’ve got a heavy focus on post-colonial politicians with a few modern writers mixed in there (typically from an anti-slavery focus). And surprisingly, you don’t include perhaps the most famous modern African, Nelson Mandela.

                  Those famous Africans from before the post-Colonial era are missing. Mana Musa, Shaka Zulu, Askia the Great, Haille Selassie.

                  What this implies is that you have an overwhelming view on Africa as a post-Colonial continent, or a response to slavery, to the exclusion of a lot of other things. That sort of bias is fine in a narrowly focused piece. But in a general “history of”….it avoids too much of Africa’s history.

                  1. Do you actually think I only know ten Africans and don’t know who Mandela is? Or that I just listed the first ten I thought of just like you asked? Engaging with you is a mistake because no matter what I would have fallen into your clever trap. I assume if I said Mandela you’d make some insipid remark about how I am only naming obvious people.

                    1. “Do you actually think I only…listed the first ten I thought of just like you asked? ”

                      Yes? That is what I asked. It was kinda the point. Are you saying you didn’t do that? Why would I make a comment about Mandela? The point was the obvious names that could easily be remembered.

                      Am I to assume that you didn’t name them from memory in addition? Did you look them up? I mean, you did write Ngũgĩ with all the accents and everything. Most people would just write Ngugi if they’re typing from memory.

                    2. It was from memory but I did copy paste Ngũgĩ‘s name because I couldn’t remember where the accents went. Happy? I remembered him off the top of my head because I read A Grain of Wheat in college and it’s still on my shelf. I also met his son (also born in Kenya).

                      I named a bunch of non-obvious ones which contradicted your point about no one knowing Africans. But in order to pretend I didn’t prove you wrong you had to be “you missed some obvious ones you must have googled!” If I had said obvious ones you would have been like: “you only names obvious ones like Mandela, you don’t know anything about Africa!” It was a trap which I couldn’t win either way.

                    3. ” Happy? ”

                      Not really. The point was that most people can’t actually name 10 people from sub-saharan African from memory…period. I was moderately impressed by your list…until you admitted you were cheating to look up their names and spellings.

                      There wasn’t a “trap”. Except perhaps one of your own making by over thinking things.

              2. Doesn’t that question do the opposite of what you want – i.e. show how European-centric our history is?

                It’s a helluva thing to argue no interesting stuff happened in Africa over the millennia just because you don’t know of it.

                1. Well, of course our history is European-centric. It’s our history, and we are a Europe derived culture.

                  1. Nationalism, but for European peoples…

                    The world is interconnected; embracing racial myopea doesn’t work. The Ottomans and Zulus have stuff to teach us and stories to tell as well.

                    1. “Nationalism, but for European peoples…”
                      C’mon, S_0. That is a distortion.

                    2. European history is not our history. Our culture is not nearly solely European.

                      Insisting that it is is a tell.

                    3. “European history is not our history. Our culture is not nearly solely European.”

                      I don’t see ‘solely’ in Brett’s comments. I’m open to opposing data, but I think that a plurality, and probably a majority, of American culture has a European lineage. We happily adopt from^H^H^H^H^H culturally appropriate from everywhere, and that is one of our strengths, but that doesn’t contradict the notion that we have inherited more from Scotland or Poland than Papua New Guinea or Eritrea.

                      “Insisting that it is is a tell.”

                      Perhaps adding a ‘solely’ that wasn’t there is also a tell 🙂

                2. I tend to think of history as the knowledge of the past that we know primarily from the written (chiseled on stone tablet, …) word. So for example, the things we know about Caesar or Gustavus Adolphus. And I think of archaeology as the knowledge of the past that we know primarily from excavating.

                  To be sure, it is somewhat of a continuum – Napoleonic scholars aren’t primarily using a shovel, and Egyptologists do some of both. But what has happened in bygone days in sub-Saharan Africa is something that is going to be more archaeology than history, and I think often difficult archaeology at that given the topography.

                  And I don’t see anyone arguing that nothing interesting happened in Africa[1] over the millenia – just that most of it is not knowable because of a relative dearth of both written records and archeological sites.

                  Historians are somewhat like the drunk looking for his keys under the streetlight – it’s hard to be a historian of cultures that left no written records. Historians are happy to cover not just Europe, but also India, the mid-east, China, Japan, etc. But it’s hard to be a historian when there aren’t sources. The ancient history of the Siberians, Inuit, or Amazon tribes will probably never be known in detail.

                  [1]For example, the Zulu expansion surely contained a lot of high drama, but we only have a glimpse of the very tail end of it.

                  1. Not gonna lie, I was hoping you and/or Don would engage on this.

                    I think that the written/non perishable artifacts is absolutely a thing. However

                    1) Does that mean it should be a thing? We’ve got better portable spotlights now. I was just talking to someone last week about how our anthropology has gotten revolutionarily better over past two decades.

                    2) It’s not the only factor – look at Asian history, which is full of writing and artifacts and yet which Armchair Lawyer’s ‘name 10 natives’ is still kinda tricky (albeit less so than Africa).

                    1. “Does that mean it should be a thing? We’ve got better portable spotlights now.”

                      Can you elaborate? For example, how do you propose studying the 1000 BC theology of Amazonian tribes?

                      You’ve probably seen the ‘Every Year’ video of European history. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see that for the tribes of North America? But we don’t have, and aren’t likely to get, the data to do that. I’d love to read a history of the campaigns as the early-horse-adopter tribes sallied forth. Who were their generals? Where were the battles? But I can get more info on Alexander’s campaigns than those, even though he was campaigning 2000 years prior. Ditto for the Zulus. We know a little about their military innovations, which were as revolutionary as blitzkrieg, but it’s like knowing nothing of WWII but the Battle of the Bulge.

                      (as an aside, note where the blank spots are at the beginning of that video … why do we know more about the 3500 B.C. history of Assyria or Egypt than what was going on in what is now Germany? That seems at odds with a ‘racist historians are only interested in Europe’ narrative)

                    2. how do you propose studying the 1000 BC theology of Amazonian tribes?

                      I’m not being clear. I’m talking about reviews of already discovered stuff.
                      I don’t mean forcing a study of them. Science in fundamental arenas like this is at it’s best is a creative endeavor, not a managed one. But I think when doing a roundup of the science for popular or student consumption, it’s not crazy to think it’s a good idea to mention what scientists have figured out about said tribes were a thing, as best we can gather. Learning the varied perspectives on how humanity can think and war and socialize and eat and exist seems not something it’s cool to dismiss.

                      The case in the OP isn’t even that far removed – it’s about nonwhites that touched and have a legacy upon our current lives. That seems even more of a perspective we are foolish to ignore.

                      I’d love to have more of a foregrounding of the Iroquois republic, and how how much that inspired Ben Franklin. But I’m not a historian, so I recognize that’s just personal taste.

                      And no, it’s not racism; it’s just myopia. I got it too; it’s human nature to be parochial. But that doesn’t mean we should lean into it.

                    3. “that doesn’t mean we should lean into it.”

                      That can cut both ways – maybe it is best to stand up straight rather than leaning into or away.

                      My middle school had been, just a few years prior, the all-grades segregated school – you could go to the library and open up books and they were still stamped ‘Booker T Washington School for Coloreds’ or something like that. When the district was forced to integrate, they repurposed to to a middle school.

                      And when we studied history, we read about Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Booker T Washington, George Washington Carver – as well as George Washington, Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, and Robert E Lee. So my sense is that the contributions of black Americans wasn’t being slighted by then.

                      The question in the OP seems to be whether the ethnic distribution of the subject historians was the result of bias, or merely that the Greeks over represented because we have manuscripts from Thucydides and Herodotus, but we don’t have manuscripts from their sub-Saharan contemporaries. People are lining up to argue one side or the other of that proposition (and without seeing the book, it’s hard to say).

                      Personally, I’m a benefit-of-the-doubt kind of guy, so my hunch is that the reason Greek historians are likely well represented relative to sub-Saharan or Teutonic ones is just that the Greeks seemed to write down a lot more that other cultures. Again, of course, one can’t say much without seeing the book. If we get to see it :-).

                    4. That’s neat. I went to a mostly Jewish private school, and not gonna lie their attempts at inclusiveness were quite cringy looking back. I musta read a Toni Morrison book in English every year from 7-12th grade.

                      Which OP are you talking about? I don’t see anything about explicit bias, more unthinking myopia – not that it’s racist history, but that it’s incomplete and thus bad history.

                      That’s how I see both the actual Conspiracy post, and LTG’s posts.

                    5. “Which OP are you talking about? I don’t see anything about explicit bias, more unthinking myopia – not that it’s racist history, but that it’s incomplete and thus bad history.”

                      By OP I mean the topic of the book in general. The publisher apparently says ‘needs more black subjects’. You suggest that the author is engaging in ‘unthinking myopia … incomplete and thus bad history’. The author added 18k words (maybe 50 pages?) to a 750 page book, roughly 7% of the total.

                      Does that sound like a huge under representation to you? Was anyone writing history in sub-Saharan Africa prior to a few hundred years ago? The Greeks are probably statistically over represented relative to, say, the Teutons for the same reason – if you don’t write down your history, later people aren’t going to be studying your history, because they can’t.

                      The Aztecs and Incas must have had some pretty spiffy generals to conquer the empires they did, but we know a lot less about their campaigns than we do about Napoleon’s. That’s not because people try to ignore Inca history, we don’t have the same level of detail.

                      Now, if we get to someday read the book, then perhaps people can make valid criticisms – ‘look, you included X, but he wasn’t a pimple on a real historian’s butt compared to Y’. But it seems rather premature to be confidently making that assumption from what we know today (which isn’t much).

                    6. If you’re going back to the OP, rather than this tangent, the idea that a book about historians should be a bit more colorful in it’s subjects is hardly an anti-white wokist bit of extremism. I don’t think it means the publisher thought the author was racist.

                      I got the impression that what the publisher wanted was not *more Zulu historians!*, but rather to include historians that changed this field by speaking to non-European perspectives.

                      From what LTG says (I don’t know the field at all) nonwhites interacting with the mainstream and broadening it is an important aspect of any discussion of even this quite Europe-centric aspect of the discipline.

                      I can tell you that looking at a page count percentage is not going to be the right metric. It looks like the publisher has academics that see missing bits in this non-academic book and want them addressed before going to print. Maybe that’s the culture war many take it for, but I’m not seeing that yet.

                    7. Oh Sarcastro,

                      Asians are easy. In fact, you can do a list of 10 entirely with single names.

                      1. Jesus
                      2. Mohammad
                      3. Confucius
                      4. Buddha
                      5. Tamerlane
                      6. Hirohito
                      7. Mao
                      8. Ataturk
                      9. Gandhi
                      10. Chandragupta

                    8. S_0,
                      I am very far from an expert on this topic.
                      My interests in and study about Africa, are concentrated on societal issues in modern Africa, such as energy poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, energy and technology infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa, and educating and retaining a talented class of scientists, engineers and technologists in African countries.

                3. The point was to see how LTG viewed African history.

                  1. No the point was to catch me in a clever trap you set, where no matter what I said it proved your point and your cleverness.

                    1. You seem to be overthinking this.

        2. While I must admit not knowing of John Hope Franklin (or a lot of other folk on the list), I have real issues with including WEB DuBois because I consider him more of a political activist than historian.

          In fairness, I have to say the same thing about Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington because while I fully agree with the political agenda those two men had, it *was* a political agenda.

          IMHO, historians should be disinterested observers — and even now there aren’t any disinterested Black historians. Toni Morrison, Skip Gates — they are incredibly political — perhaps legitimately so, but they are still inherently political…

          1. “IMHO, historians should be disinterested observers“

            Not a thing. Never has been. See Peter Novick’s That Noble Dream: The Objectivity Question in the American Historical Profession.

            1. Some of us are not impressed by your repeated reliance on a guy who wrote that American Jews should stop making such a big deal of the Holocaust. It kind of undermines the idea that only credentials historians can be trusted to do history.

              1. Well if you knew anything about the historical profession you’d understand the importance of Novick’s work on objectivity. I mean his entire point is that you can’t look at anything objectively, and here you are using his work on cultural memory of the Holocaust to ignore his history of the American historical profession…which kind of proves his point. You aren’t looking at that issue “objectively” based on the evidence he presents at all, you’re drawing your conclusion based on other stuff.

                “It kind of undermines the idea that only credentials historians can be trusted to do history.”

                You don’t need the credentials: non-academics and non-professional historians do produce good history. But they do it because they’re following the same methods professional historians use.

                1. I am perfectly willing to believe his argument that HE was unable to be objective about history. There’s an incredible amount of making perfect the enemy of good in that kind of argument.

                  A more parsimonious explanation is that he wrote the one work to excuse his opinions on the other subject.

                  But to your point, the only thing we can conclude from the incident at hand is that Random House does not care about methods or substance, but only about quotas and political agendas.

                  1. History is the study of narrative. This is something you learn in history 101. (Which, to be fair, I did not learn until grad school 2015; STEM education can be a bit overfocused.)

                    That does not mean history is not the study of facts, just that it must include the context of why is recording those facts and why.

                  2. “A more parsimonious explanation is that he wrote the one work to excuse his opinions on the other subject.”

                    He actually wrote it because he thought the criticisms of his former student David Abraham* were nonsense when couched in terms of objectivity. Everyone saying they were objective also had a political axe to grind. The Lost Cause/Dunning School claimed it was objective. So do the Marxists today.

                    *other historians had much better legitimate criticisms of his work that weren’t couched in terms of objectivity.

                    “But to your point, the only thing we can conclude from the incident at hand is that Random House does not care about methods or substance, but only about quotas and political agendas.”

                    If you leave out black historians in a global history of history, your substance and methods are probably bad.

                    1. Well, we can also conclude that your arguments and reading ability are bad. Or maybe just your faith.

                      From The Fine Article: “its author failed to take into account enough black historians, academics and writers”. It wasn’t that he left them out, it’s that somebody — almost certainly not “following the same methods professional historians use” — decided that it was disrespectful to proportionally address the few relevant Black historians from the few centuries when Black people have been writing about history in English. For a book that starts more than 2400 years ago, there are a lot of historians and ideas to cover.

                    2. Your last paragraph makes no sense. First of all, if its a global history so it doesn’t matter whether they are writing in English or not. Second, isn’t the fact that you don’t think the historians of an entire continent/race are “relevant” to a book purporting to be a global history of how we communicate historical ideas the problem? Look at how easily you discarded them as not relevant.

                    3. “If you leave out black historians in a global history of history, your substance and methods are probably bad.”

                      Or that instead of writing history, they instead wrote/performed music.

                      Both are humanities, and there have been a LOT of Black musicians. Maybe even used music instead of dry books to record culture.

                2. “I mean his entire point is that you can’t look at anything objectively”

                  Said every person ever who didn’t want to look at something objectively.

                  Objectivity is difficult, people love their excuses to not strive for it.

                  1. “Said every person ever who didn’t want to look at something objectively.”

                    No. Said self-aware non-arrogant people who understand other humans.

                    You know who claims to have an objective theory of history? Marxists. So if you want to be a Marxist, it’s a weird flex, but go ahead.

                  2. Striving for objectivity and acknowledging it’s impossible are both important virtues – one diligence, the other humility.

                    1. I can’t find it right now but there is a nice Raymond Aron quote about how you shouldn’t try to be objective you should try to be fair and try to not let prejudices determine the outcome
                      Or predominate the process of analysis.

                      Indeed, I would say objectivity goes out the window as soon as you pick a topic. Even the choice of what to write about and what you’re interested in is the product of something completely subjective.

                    2. We’re deep into connotations now, but I find objectivity to be more of a well-defined goal than fairness.

                    3. Most people have a rough sense of fairness that is more easily identifiable. So as a historian if you don’t address an obvious source that is a problem for your larger claim or distort it, you aren’t being fair. But even if you fairly tried to engage with it, acknowledge how it complicates your argument, and then say why you’re still right overall, someone claiming objectivity would announce that you weren’t being objective because that source “objectively” destroys your argument. So I don’t think there is a point to trying to be objective since its defined so differently by so many people.

                    4. That’s basically what I tell my students when they raise questions about objectivity and the ultimate boogeyman, bias (which is usually invoked as a way of negating an argument they don’t like—”the author is biased”). We seek to be critical when we interrogate our sources. We can never achieve objectivity—nor should we, because that would generate a bland presentation of evidence without an argument—but that isn’t the same thing as rigging the evidence to generate the conclusion we want.

                    5. Fair (heh) enough.

                      Interrogating one’s own bias is pretty important as well, of course.

                    6. Asking undergrads to interrogate their own biases when constructing arguments is, I’ve found, a step too far for most. The strong students, the ones who are candidates for grad school, yeah, but they generally get that already. But for most, appreciating how much of our writing is autobiography would go completely over their heads.

                  3. Please share with us examples of objective history.

                    This is the difference between people who think history is just relating facts about the past and those who understand that history is about making interpretations and arguments about the past. That’s why we have multiple interpretations of similar events, people, and ideas, and that these disagreements evolve over generations of scholars. That isn’t a failure of history to be “objective.” It’s the virtue of historical interpretation being dynamic, of being a reflection of its practitioners and present circumstances. It’s an endless conversation about the past. People who believe in definitive accounts and objective history are searching for unicorns, and so disqualify themselves from being taken seriously by actual historians.

    3. Marginalized people were in the margin. Minority or female history is worth a class or two. Not worth a separate department. They did not do much. One can be curious about the history of how ordinary people lived. But, people scrubbing clothes on a washboard at the river is not really history.

      There was a black guy who would be a trillionaire at today’s price of gold. He ran a quarter of Western Africa. He started public schools and research institutes hundreds of years ago. This extraordinary achiever is not what is covered. What is covered is the usual Marxist, hate America victimization of conquered people to take down our nation. It is garbage.

      As to victimization, no one will say this in a history course. The awful treatment of other human beings was 100% under color of law, and 100% the fault of the most toxic occupation in our land, 10 times more toxic than organized crime. Find me that passage in the wokest revisionist history. They cover up the blame that needsto be carried by today’s Democrat Party. All reparations should come from the Democrat Party and from the skunk lawyer profession.

      Then, all reparations should be subrogated for the awful racial disparities in all social pathologies. The irresponsible conduct of these misfits has caused 10 times the damage as is owed them in reparations.

  13. Are we adding “Big Publisher” to the list of bad guys? I’m having trouble keeping my list up-to-date.

    Liberal Media
    Liberal Hollywood
    Liberal Academia
    Liberal Big Tech
    Liberal Big Publisher(?)

    Which oppressive forces am I missing?

    1. Ummm —- big *everything*????

      The concept of the anti-trust laws started long before Teddy Roosevelt when people saw the harm that Big Rail was causing…

    2. You are missing the entire scumbag lawyer profession. All PC is case.

    3. Your list could be shortened considerably.

      Liberal (woketarian, not classically liberal) anything.

      1. No no, from this blog, I’m quite sure the answer is “Liberal (woketarian, not classically liberal) everything“.

        Amazing any of you underdogs manage to survive.

        1. “No no, from this blog, I’m quite sure the answer is “Liberal (woketarian, not classically liberal) everything“.”

          6 or half a dozen.

          Woketarianism is a pox on all our houses.

          1. There are absolutely a growing number of authoritarian leftist idiots out there.

            But they are not every institution, and they did not make the toaster burn your toast this morning.

            Big business: not Communist.

            1. “Big business: not Communist.”

              Nice straw man.

              Big business is more and more kowtowing to woketarianism, if they have not already fully embraced it.

              “they did not make the toaster burn your toast this morning.”

              I don’t eat toast, but it’s possible that they pissed in my Cheerios.

  14. I remember buying a copy of Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ back in the day. It was a dreadful book, but I have always found ‘Banned in Boston’ to be an irresistible sales pitch. I just pre-ordered a copy of this book off Amazon, so Random House will know what they are missing. It’s returnable if it ends up getting bowdlerized.

    If Random House changes their mind, I will read it while sipping coffee from my ‘Department of Homeland Stupidity’ mug.

    1. When I was teaching High School English, I wanted to offer an optional (honors) course on books that had been “Banned in Boston.”

      This was the period of transition between the old censorship and the new censorship, with me mistakenly thinking that maybe we had outgrown censorship — and that telling young people that “someone” didn’t/doesn’t want them to read a book is the most powerful incentive to encourage reluctant readers to actually read it

      Needless to say, this didn’t work out — the only thing that the old and new censors agreed on was that censorship was good…

  15. Republicans just punished Liz Cheney for failing to embrace lies. Right-wing law professors are focused on publishers who figure a book of history should include Black people.

    Carry on, clingers.

    1. Your inherent and consistent bias is just sad.

      1. Your stale, ugly right-wing thinking has been defeated, in the battle of ideas (culture war), by better ideas and better Americans.

        Are you going to accept defeat with dignity, and try to improve with modern American society, or instead continue to advocate backwardness, racism, misogyny, superstition, gay-bashing, xenophobia, and the other elements of vanquished, obsolete movement conservatism?

    2. I am not interested in any of that. I want the 25000 traitors of the lawyer profession hierarchy arrested, tried, and sentenced. I would like to amend the insurrection law to allow them to be executed in the basement of the courthouse on reading of the verdict. The sole evidence for the one hour trial would be their legal utterances.

      Repeat every 20 years.

      1. You realize Josh Blackman, the author of this piece, is a lawyer, right?
        I, for one, don’t want him executed.

        1. Josh Blackman should not be executed.

  16. Sorry, folks.

    Anything you write from now on has to describe how the topic, whatever it is, discriminated against American Black people.

    A history of the Arab Israeli conflict has to have at least a chapter about Critical Race Theory in North America.

    1. Sad but true…

  17. Well the next book on great American 100 meter sprinters might need to ensure include the great sprinters pre 1936……equal or proportional based on tribe not on actual achievement is the rule now as it should be. And we need to apply this to everything..Newtonian Mechanics books need to be rejected as they only hold the theories of motion from a white guy. Alternative theories of motion or explanations of the stars and celestial mechanics are as valid and need to be given equal treatment…anything else is racism.

  18. OK, so skimming the cmments, perhaps the initial problem was with Cohen ignoring some key black historians. But with all the investment they put into the project – author and publisher together – one *might* think they’d come up with a way to give Cohen more time to make the necessary additions. I mean, I understand editors are in the habit of suggesting changes.

    What was the peculiar dynamic which stopped them from working with him altogether?

    Maybe I’ll have to read the article, but I usually don’t want to do anything that drastic.

    1. OK, I yielded to curiosity and read the article:

      “The History Makers is still due to be published in the UK by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on 25 June, with advance reviews from Hilary Mantel [!] and Amanda Foreman, followed by a book serialisation on Radio 4.”

      Do Americans get to buy the British copy? Will bootleg copies get smuggles across the Atlantic?

      1. I’ve put in a pre-order for the American version, on Kindle. It will be interesting to see if it ever arrives.

        1. Well, Amazon just moved the delivery date from August to September, not a good sign.

          1. I knew somebody who around January ordered a calendar for the current year and enjoyed many months of Amazon updating the shipping date of something that was never going to appear. The calendar was clearly permanently out of stock. The computer was programmed not to let a sale slip away.

            1. They just cancelled the order, on account of Random House notifying them the book would never be published. And, yes, their UK Amazon store refuses to sell it to Americans.

    1. That was 50 years ago.
      Try publishing something like that now…

  19. Just make up a few stories that sound too off the wall to be fictional.

    You know the jerry curl hair style of the 70’s was invented in a mechanic shop in Chicago, IL by a black business owner. While changing the oil on a car the oil pan leaked all over his hair. When he went get cleaned up his fellow co-workers asked him how he got such a great hair style. After being about ready to tell them what happened with the leaking oil, instead he decided to just make something up about an oil based product a barber down the street sold that created the slicked back style.

  20. I, for one, would be extremely interested to learn about black historians who have made major contributions to historiography.

  21. “Who is the Tolstoy of the Zulus? The Proust of the Papuans? I’d be glad to read him.” — Saul Bellow

  22. 1. Richard Cohen is not a historian, not even close, nor, as far as I can tell has his life ever required him to be an academic. The first paragraph of this is deceptive, attempting to muddle the distinction between the free exchange of ideas (such as it is) in the academy, and the for-profit publishing business. I don’t know if you’re simply being clumsy here or if there’s something less seemly going on. Either way, it’s bad writing.

    2. You haven’t read the manuscript. You don’t know whether it’s any good or not. Maybe it’s as good as Cohen’s biography of the sun. Maybe not. Maybe it’s frankly racist, as Saul Bellow was. You don’t know. But you’re indignant anyway. This isn’t an empirical judgement you’re making. It’s a political one.

    3. You’re angry at a private corporation, well-lawyered, choosing not to publish Cohen’s book. Cohen can go back and strip out any reference to Black historians, and someone–Regnery?–will publish it. Then the right wing think tanks can buy it in bulk, and he can make a nice chunk of cash on top of the money from Random House he’ll probably keep. (And which he’s likely entitled to.)

    4. I can’t imagine you want the government to force Random House to publish and promote Cohen’s book, if they think it’s, on balance, not worth it to them, even with a six figure sunk cost. Or do you?

    5. What I think you want is for your readers to cancel Random House. Good luck with that.

    1. Edit: ” … maybe it’s frankly racist, as Saul Bellow’s comment was …”
      I meant to refer to what he said, not the state of his soul.

      When he made the remark in 1988, Things Fall Apart had been in print for 30 years, and anyone who had been paying attention to world literature knew of a multitude of other fine African writers. His ignorance said much about him, nothing about literary fiction.

    2. DolanP53, I was surprised I had to get to the bottom of the comments to find the points you mention. Trying to turn this into some kind of academic freedom scandal is indeed worse than pointless.

      More generally, Blackman’s take illustrates an all-too-common blind spot. Too many lawyers seem disrespectful of history. For example, Blackman here writes as if the question whether Cohen is a historian is irrelevant, or not worth consideration.

      A result is that when lawyerly stuff intersects with with history, whether in public commentary, in legal documents, or in advocacy for theories of legal interpretation, lawyers tend to just make stuff up. It is as if they think an arbiter of the law ought to be empowered to adjust the historical underpinnings of the law as well. It is rare indeed to find any lawyer who even knows historiography exists, let alone pays attention to it.

      Blackman doesn’t know what he is talking about, and apparently doesn’t care. I don’t get why that happens so often with lawyers, but it happens so systematically that it seems some kind of explanation ought to be out there.

      1. “For example, Blackman here writes as if the question whether Cohen is a historian is irrelevant, or not worth consideration.”

        Well, the only reason it matters if you’re a lawyer is that they’ve got an incestuous relationship with lawmakers and judges, that let them enforce a strict cartel. Do historians have anything like that? Not that I’ve heard.

      2. Fuck, but your comment packs a lot of credentialism into not a lot of thought.

      3. Blackman doesn’t know what he is talking about, and apparently doesn’t care. See “This Day In Supreme Court History.”

      4. “Blackman here writes as if the question whether Cohen is a historian is irrelevant, or not worth consideration.” – the question is entirely irrelevant to the issue at hand- since his credentials were known to the publisher when they signed him up to write the book. If they were good enough at that point, it is not worth consideration now that they canceled the contract.

    3. “Richard Cohen is not a historian”

      I looked him up, and it appears he’s written two books of history already:

      -By the Sword: A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions


      -Chasing the Sun, The Epic Story of the Star that Gives Us Life

      “as I can tell has his life ever required him to be an academic”

      No, but Wikipedia says this: “In June 2017 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.”

      But, yes, his “day job” wasn’t as an academic but as a publisher and Olympic-level sword fighter.


      1. Calling a story about the sun a book of history seems strained, for several reasons.

        1. Share those reasons with Booklist, whose review Amazon quotes:

          “Formerly a publisher, Cohen decided to write the work he couldn’t sign an author for: a cultural and scientific history of the sun.”

          1. You’ll also want to talk to worldcat, which classifies the book as follows:

            Science and civilization.
            Astronomy — History.
            Sun — History.

            PS – did anyone ever tell you that you were a moron?

            1. Please be careful, Cal Cetin — Prof. Volokh still claims, however lamely, that he enforces civility standards (rather than imposing partisan, viewpoint-based censorship favoring conservatives) around here.

              1. Notice that you didn’t defend your retarded assertion that *Chasing the Sun* was not a history book.

                Indeed, your position contradicts the mainstream institutions and publications I cited. So is worldcat a backward, can’t-keep-up institution, or are you a moron?

  23. ::non historian write book on historiography::
    ::publisher only wants to publish if the history includes nonwhites, as is the thing in academia::
    ::non-historian OP: “This is oppression!”::
    ::many non-historian commenters “Yes! Oppression!!”::

    There’s plenty of examples of the left getting authoritarian and dumb, but it amazes me how bad Conspirators that aren’t Prof. Volokh are at pointing out good ones.

    Not that the comentariat cares – anything furthering the white male oppression narrative makes them very happy to be angry at.

    1. “publisher only wants to publish if the history includes nonwhites”

      Well, once we have seen the pre-rework British version, we might be able to tell if the book was lily white, or just didn’t meet a quota.

      1. Sounds like you want to do some arbitrary line-drawing looking to disagree with their line-drawing.

        Seems a dumb game to me.

        1. It’s a game he’s been playing for years, though.

        2. It sounds like he wants to see the text which this debate is all about before judging it.

          1. But how will he judge it? By his gut.

            Brett’s gut, lets not be coy, has already made up it’s mind.

            1. Unlike your uniform wait-for-the-evidence approach?

              1. Except unlike Brett, I did not pretend I was withholding judgement until all the facts were in.

                Because the facts I’m posting about are observing yet another comment thread just super into the white oppression and details bedamned.

    2. “::non historian write[s] book on historiography::”

      What is the basis of your calling the author a “non historian”?

      1. History is an academic discipline.

        1. So Churchill is not one, according to you ? that would come as a surprise to many, including societies dedicated to his legacy (https://winstonchurchill.org/publications/finest-hour/finest-hour-106/winston-churchill-author-and-historian/)
          How about “The Father of History” – Herodotus?

          1. You can’t put ancient people into modern boxes.

            I’m quite comfortable saying that Churchill was not a professional historian.

            1. Definition of historian
              1: a student or writer of history
              especially : one who produces a scholarly synthesis
              2: a writer or compiler of a chronicle


              Of course, this is the Merriam-Wokester dictionary, so you can always contact them and ask them to amend their retrograde and bigoted definition.

            2. Don’t think we didn’t notice the goal posts moving from “historian” to “Professional historian in modern times”. Once you persuade the International Churchill Society that he’s not really an historian, I might take your idiosyncratic definitions seriously.

        2. Not historians, according to you:

          Edward Gibbon
          Barbara Tuchman

          Are you really going to dig in on this one?

          1. The ancient Greeks also contained very few Republicans.

            I’d call your second two historians.
            I’m not being a credentialism – history being an academic discipline doesn’t mean you need to have academic credentials, only that you engage with academic protocols.

            1. “The ancient Greeks also contained very few Republicans.”

              I’m not even sure what that means.

              “history being an academic discipline doesn’t mean you need to have academic credentials, only that you engage with academic protocols”

              So if a historian is bad enough, (s)he isn’t a historian?

              So I guess we have to read Cohen’s book to see if it’s good enough to make him a historian like Barbara Tuchman, or if it’s bad enough to make a him a nonhistorian like Michael Bellesiles?

            2. Commenting generally:

              “So I guess we have to read Cohen’s book to see if it’s good enough to make him a historian like Barbara Tuchman, or if it’s bad enough to make a him a nonhistorian like Michael Bellesiles?”

              Well put :-).

              re: Churchill – memoirs have obvious advantages and disadvantages as historical documents. I’d generally agree that writing a memoir doesn’t make you a historian. OTOH, Churchill’s bio of Marlborough or ‘History of the English Speaking Peoples’ are pretty clearly history (and quite good, IMHO).

              I just don’t think it’s worth fighting about. I’d count Richard Rhodes as a good historian, but he wasn’t in academia. What matters is the quality of the work. Einstein was right, even if he was working as a patent clerk at the time.

  24. Here’s a fun thought. Let’s say the contract was for a history of American legal thought. The author turns in a rather lengthy manuscript that is pretty much exclusively devoted to liberal thinkers and living constitutionalism. The publisher says, um, this is seriously deficient with regards to originalists, go rework this. The author says fine and turns in a new draft with a couple chapters on originalism. Publisher says, no, this is not sufficient or what we want to publish and cancels the contract. Do Blackman and his chorus here get similarly worked up about author freedom and the tyranny of publishers?

    1. I’d imagine we’d get like 80 Bernstein posts attacking the author (like he did with Nancy MacLean) and using this one example to proclaim that everything historians do it bad.

      1. Bingo. Posts like Blackman’s, and the predictable amens, aren’t promoting principle so much as calling for a group reassurance hug. It’s a pity party, not seeking intellectual engagement.

        1. It is nice, in a way, that the Volokh Conspiracy provides a place at which clingers can huddle together for whatever diminishing warmth movement conservatives can find in modern America (especially educated, reasoning modern America).

          This blog also provides useful insight concerning unvarnished right-wing thinking.

          But mostly it’s an ankle-nipping festival and self-pity party.

  25. Presumably he didn’t originally include more on Black historians because he didn’t consider them worthy. Then he added 18,000 words. Now, he was either incredibly short-sighted in his treatment of Black historians, or his addition is pandering so that his book would be published. Either way he has not acquitted himself well.

    1. Or a third possibility, the book was fine and the publisher is just another woke bullshit artist. Don’t know.

  26. Blackman’s introductory paragraph about academics misled me into thinking Cohen was an academic, which he wasn’t, he is merely a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

    That being cleared up, I’d really like to see the British version of the book, since I understand this is the material Random House wouldn’t publish. Reading the text for myself I could evaluate how fair he’s been to John Hope Franklin, W. E. B. Du Bois, and since apparently he does historical novels too, Toni Morrison (among others).

    Maybe if I read the UK version I can get back to you on whether I should be outraged or not about Random House’s decision.

  27. I don’t know anything about these specific kinds of contracts, but it doesn’t seem like much of a “contract” if they can just back out.

    I assume the book can be published elsewhere right?

    1. Yes, but apparently they’ll embargo it if you’re trying to get it from the US.

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