HNN’s poll to name the “least credible history book in print” has come to a close, and David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies came out on top, just barely beating Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
What strikes me about the poll is that while all the nominated books are undeniably problematic, they’re problematic in very different ways. Whereas The Jefferson Lies has become notorious for numerous errors of fact and interpretation, most of the HNN readers who left comments about A People’s History seemed to take issue with Zinn’s blatant partiality rather than with any specific claims in the book. Gavin Menzies’s 1421: The Year China Discovered the World is almost in a class by itself, since its whole premise is open to question.
I also think it’s interesting that we had a string of high-profile accusations of plagiarism, fabrication of evidence, and other forms of scholarly malfeasance in the past several years, but none of the books involved in these scandals made the list of front-runners.
Anyway, they say any publicity is good as long as they spell your name right, so perhaps congratulations are in order.