Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Please Stop Calling Them Historians!

I was watching CNN this morning when I heard the anchor refer to Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, the authors of The Holy Blood, The Holy Grail as historians. Baigent and Leigh are news-worthy because they are suing Dan Brown, author of the Da Vinci Code for stealing material from their book. While I have no opinion on whether Brown lifted material from The Holy Blood or not, I do not like seeing Baigent and Leigh referred to as historians. Their work does not in any way meet the standards of history.

When Charles Wood of Dartmouth College reviewed Baigent's and Leigh's work in The Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, he argued that it was not a "serious scholarly book" and that it did not measure of up to other history texts in terms of "approach, methodology, and research design". In addition, it doesn't appear that either of the authors have any training in history. Michael Baigent obtained a degree in psychology from Canterbury University and worked primarily as a photojournalist before becoming interested in the Templars. While Richard Leigh does have a Ph.D. from Stony Brook University (although I can't find his dissertation listed in dissertation abstracts), it is apparently in comparative literature (according to his publisher), not history.

So neither by training, nor by approach and methodology are Baigent and Leigh historians. Therefore, PLEASE stop calling them that.

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