Definitions

Richard_J._Evans

Richard J. Evans

Professor Richard Evans (born 1947) is a British historian of Germany. He was born in London, of Welsh parentage, and is now Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Gonville & Caius College. He has also taught at the University of Stirling, University of East Anglia and Birkbeck College, London. On 15 September 2008, it was announced that he will be the next Regius Professor of Modern History in succession to Quentin Skinner.

Career as a historian

As a undergraduate, Evans was much influenced by What Is History?, a book outlining radical historiographical principles by the quasi-Marxist historian E. H. Carr. He was drawn to German history in the late 1960s because of what he saw as parallels between the Vietnam War and German imperalism. Evans was much influenced by the Sonderweg view of continuity of German history of Fritz Fischer. Evans' main interests are in social history and he is much influenced by the Annales School. He largely agrees with Fischer that the way that German society developed in the 19th century led to the rise of Nazi Germany, although Evans takes pains to point out that this outcome was one among many possibilities and was not inevitable. For Evans, the values of the 19th century German middle class had the seeds of National Socialism already germinating.

In the 1980s, Evans played a prominent role in the Historikerstreit. Evans took issue with the historical work and theories of Ernst Nolte, Joachim Fest, Andreas Hillgruber, Michael Stürmer and Klaus Hildebrand, all of whom he described as seeking to white-wash the German past. Evans denounced Stürmer for writing a laudatory biography of Otto von Bismarck, which he felt marked a regression to the Great man theory of history and an excessive focus on political history. Evans argued that a social historical approach was a better way of understanding German history. In addition, in his book about the Historikerstreit, In Hitler's Shadow, Evans attacked the historical work of Robert Conquest, Hugh Thomas, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and Geoffrey Rudolph Elton, all of whom Evans viewed as part of a neo-conservative historical trend.

One of his most famous works is In Defence of History, a book in defence of the study of history against postmodernist theories that hold the study of history to be outmoded and no longer useful. However, Evans stresses throughout his book that some of the criticisms made by postmodernists have been beneficial to history as a whole, in particular that subjectivity is an inevitable and unavoidable part of the historic construct.

He has currently published two volumes of a proposed three volume work on the history of the Third Reich. The final volume is scheduled for October 2008.

Role as an Expert Witness in Irving v. Lipstadt

Richard Evans is perhaps best known for his role as an expert witness for the American historian Deborah Lipstadt in the case of Irving v. Lipstadt. Ms. Lipstadt was sued for libel by the British historian David Irving, after she referred to Mr. Irving as a "holocaust denier" and "an ardent follower of [Adolf Hitler]." Ms. Lipstadt further accused Mr. Irving of "distorting evidence and manipulating documents to serve his own purposes...[as well as] skewing documents and misrepresenting data in order to reach historically untenable conclusions, particularly those that exonerate Hitler..

Richard Evans was retained as an expert witness by Ms. Lipstadt. His role was to investigate Mr. Irving's books, speeches, and other publications to determine whether Mr. Irving was, in fact, a Holocaust denier who had manipulated documents to serve his own political interests. Mr. Evans, along with two of his PhD students, poured through Mr. Irving's work and found several instances in which he had used forged documents, disregarded contrary evidence, selectively quoted historical documents out of context, and mis-cited historical records. Among the many inaccuracies in Irving's work were the following:

  1. Irving greatly exaggerated the death toll from the Allied bombing of Dresden, and also drastically under-reported the estimated death toll of the Holocaust. Irving then constantly used the unsupported estimates to draw false comparisons between the bombing of Dresden and the Holocaust. Irving based his inflated estimate of 250,000 Dresden dead on a document that was revealed to be a forgery. Even after the document's authenticity was conclusively discredited, Irving continued to rely on it and publish his greatly exaggerated death tool. The actual death toll is generally recognized to be less than 20,000.
  2. Irving claims that Hitler knew nothing of the Holocaust. Evans exposed this as untrue and catalogued how Irving had discounted and ignored dozens of credible sources in favor of interviewing biased individuals, such as Hitler's car driver. Evans also exposed problems in Irving's interviewing techniques that tended to elicit testimony favorable to Irving's position.
  3. Irving claims that there was no systematic Holocaust. Instead, Irving claims that any murders that occurred were the result of sporadic and unathorized killing sprees by soldiers and local citizens. Irving further claims that the death toll of the Holocaust is less than 1,000,000 and that most of those deaths were the result of disease, not wilfull killing. Evans exposed this as untrue and once again catalogued how Irving had distorted the historical record by rejecting credible sources in favor of isolated documents whose authenticity were in serious dispute.
  4. Irving called the authenticity of documents contrary to his position into question, even when there was no basis for such an argument. Most notable, he repeatedly referred to Anne Frank's diary as a forgery, even after forensics investigators had conclusively established its authenticity.
  5. Irving claims that there were never any gas chambers set up for the extermination of Jews and other prisoners of the Nazis. Evans exposed this as untrue, and showed how Irving had arrived at that conclusion by relying in part on select quotations from Goebbels' diaries, often taken out of context. Most disturbing of all was the fact that Irving alternated between the original German version of the diary and the "official" 1954 English translation -- always choosing the translation that could best be taken out of context and twisted to suit his purposes.

Additionally, Evans uncovered several connections between Irving and known anti-semitic Holocaust deniers and "revisionist" organizations. Evans also uncovered many examples of outright racist and anti-semitic statements on the part of Irving.

The scope of Irving's dishonesty, his political connections to Holocaust deniers, and his well-documented anti-semitism led Richard Evans to conclude that Ms. Lipstadt's assessment was accurate. In other words, Evans concluded that Irving was a Holocaust denier who had twisted and distorted the historical record in order to further his own political ideals. Richard Evans proved to be a powerful witness in Ms. Lipstadt's ultimately successful defense, and he later wrote a book about his experience, titled Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial.

Endnotes

Work

  • The Feminist Movement In Germany, 1894-1933, London : Sage Publications, 1976.
  • The Feminists : Women's Emancipation Movements in Europe, America and Australasia, 1840-1920, London : C. Helm, 1977.
  • Society And Politics In Wilhelmine Germany edited by R.J. Evans, London : Croom Helm, 1980, 1978.
  • The German Family : Essays On the Social History Of The Family In Nineteenth And Twentieth-Century Germany, London : C. Helm ; Totowa, N.J. : Barnes & Noble Books, 1981.
  • The German Working Class, 1888-1933 : The Politics Of Everyday Life, London : Croom Helm ; Totowa, N.J. : Barnes & Noble, 1982.
  • The German Peasantry : Conflict And Community In Rural Society From The Eighteenth To The Twentieth Centuries edited by Richard J. Evans and W.R. Lee, London : Croom Helm, 1986.
  • The German Unemployed : Experiences And Consequences Of Mass Unemployment From The Weimar Republic To The Third Reich, London : C. Helm, 1987.
  • Rethinking German History : Nineteenth-Century Germany And The Origins Of The Third Reich, London : Allen and Unwin, 1987.
  • Comrades And Sisters : Feminism, Socialism, And Pacifism In Europe, 1870-1945, Brighton, Sussex : Wheatsheaf Books ; New York : St. Martin's Press, 1987.
  • "The New Nationalism and the Old History: Perspectives on the West German Historikerstreit" pages 761-797 from The Journal of Modern History, Volume 59, No. 4, December, 1987
  • Death In Hamburg : Society And Politics In The Cholera Years, 1830-1910 Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1987.
  • The German Underworld : Deviants And Outcasts In German history, London : Routledge, 1988.
  • In Hitler's Shadow : West German Historians And The Attempt To Escape From The Nazi past, London : I.B. Tauris, 1989.
  • Proletarians And Politics : Socialism, Protest, And The Working Class In Germany Before The First World War, New York : Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990.
  • The German Bourgeoisie : Essays On The Social History Of The German Middle Class From The Late Eighteenth To The Early Twentieth Century London: Routledge, 1991.
  • Rituals Of Retribution : Capital Punishment In Germany 1600-1987, New York : Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Rereading German History : From Unification To Reunification, 1800-1996, London ; New York : Routledge, 1997.
  • Tales From The German Underworld : Crime And Punishment In The Nineteenth Century, New Haven [Conn.] ; London : Yale University Press, 1998.
  • In Defense of History, New York : W.W. Norton & Co., 1999.
  • Lying About Hitler : History, Holocaust, And The David Irving Trial, New York : Basic Books, 2001; published in the Unitid Kingdom as Telling Lies About Hitler: The Holocaust, History and the David Irving Trial, Verso Books, 2002.
  • The Coming Of The Third Reich, London : Allen Lane, 2003.
  • The Third Reich Iin Power, 1933-1939, New York : Penguin, 2005.

See also

References

  • Guttenplan, D.D. The Holocaust On Trial, New York: Norton, 2001.
  • Snowman, Daniel "Richard J. Evans" pages 45-47 from History Today Volume 54, Issue #1, January 2004.

External links

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