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Lawrence Serewicz's recent post on Professor Buzzanco's Bernath Lecture struck me as one of the most cogent and methodical rebuttals I've seen on H-Diplo. Taken in tandem with Professor Kaiser's own formidable retort on the same topic, a powerful challenge has been raised to the " New Left " position championed by Robert Buzzanco. What I would like to address however is the concluding questions Mr. Serewicz posed regarding the use or abuse of citations and by implication, the ethical state of the historical profession and the validity of its work. " If we must check the footnotes so as to be sure they say what [t]he author suggests they say..." states Serewicz "...it will be difficult to learn anything ." I would counter that Mr. Serewicz's impressive post amply demonstrated that he learned a great deal from his review of Buzzanco's Bernath lecture citations. First of all he has learned that an author's academic credentials are no guarantee that a published work is free of inaccuracies whether they resulted from honest error, the subtle bias of omitted context or calculated distortion to advance a dearly held political cause. As Richard J. Evans wrote in his _In Defense of History_ , historians have a " shared duty of ' getting it right' " and that "...interpretations really can be tested by an appeal to the evidence, and some of the time at least, it really is possible to prove that one side is right and the other is wrong ". This exercise in peer scrutiny is apparently a more vital " duty " for scholars today than ever before. The frequency with which Mr. Serewicz detects omission of critical sources and shaded meanings after consulting the archives is a sign that the overt politicization of the historical profession and the malign influence of postmodernist philosophy may be taking its toll. After all, if an author's footnotes proved inaccurate due to random sloppiness or incompetence then the net effect of the errors would not consistently skew into a political direction congenial to the writer's thesis. Secondly, Mr. Serewicz has learned and presented an articulate defense of the necessity to examine critically the complex varieties of contexts in which a historical event occurred. Without mastery of context a historian has little chance of " getting it right " whatever the prodigious accumulation of isolated facts they might assemble. This is a lesson in which many professional and even a few eminent scholars fail to heed. Take for example, Walter LeFeber, who has a corpus of meticulously documented and vigorously argued books critical of American foreign policy to his credit. Professor LeFeber is a deservedly influential historian but his interpretation of the Cold War features a strangely passive Soviet Union capable only of a half-hearted, defensive, posture vis-a-vis the United States. LeFeber's unwillingness to question as critically Soviet positions as he does American ones or delve more deeply into Soviet history has robbed his critique of U.S. Cold War policies of the authority they might otherwise possess.. It has also led Professor LeFeber into some truly odd speculations, such as in _America, Russia and the Cold War_ where he postulated that Malenkov was openly challenging Stalin's ideological authority and that Stalin's well known " Marr article " on Soviet linguistics theory was the dictator's response ( p. 90 -91 ). Considering that Stalin had just abruptly liquidated two high ranking Party leaders ( N. A. Voznesensky, politburo member; A. A. Kuznetsov, a CC secretary ) merely for exercising a small degree of original thought, the historical context renders an intentional attack on Stalin's ideas in a public speech by Malenkov somewhat unlikely. Still more unbelievable is Stalin limiting his retribution to oblique criticism of a dead linguistics professor. In other words, in history, context is everything. Mr. Serewicz posed a question that goes to the heart of current practice within the historical profession " In sum, are we expected to do primary research simply to make sure that the secondary literature is cited correctly ? ". Perhaps the fact that this question is being asked is itself a scathing indictment of the current state of the profession and indicates a qualitative decline as not a few historians have begun to regard their craft as a means to a political end rather than an end in itself. I am not speaking of honest error, even the most methodical author will have minor mistakes when tackling a large and complex work of history which they endeavor to correct in subsequent additions, but of self-conscious manipulation of the evidence. This is troublesome because if the historians are not even attempting to get the story straight, who will then ? Journalists ? We might as well turn the whole business over to Tom Clancy and Oliver Stone since their brand of fiction at least has the virtue of mass appeal. So to answer Mr. Serewicz's question bluntly, yes. If an author's secondary work has impacted your thinking in a profound manner, enough so as to alter your evaluation of a subject or the direction of your research, than by all means give the text a thorough going- over to see if the author really knows his stuff or is engaging in a subtle and deceptive polemical outburst. Such offenders should, as Ed Moise stated in his recent post " be continually and unmercifully criticized for it " .In deciding what material to sprend time reviewing in depth I would be particularly cautious of history that makes one " feel good " by seemingly confirming or reinforcing the intellectual prejudices of the reader rather than those works which challenge our fundamental assumptions; there is no faster transmission for error to the mainstream of our culture than by relating what we are already predisposed to believe. Mark Safranski