Professor of History
Michael A. Bellesiles has resigned after an academic
panel released a report strongly critical of his research
for a widely debated book about the history of guns in
America. Bellesiles, who was also the director of Emorys
Center for the Study of Violence, said in a statement
that he cannot continue to teach in what I feel
is a hostile environment.
book at the center of the controversy, Arming America:
The Origins of a National Gun Culture (Alfred A. Knopf,
2000), made the argument that contrary to popular belief,
personal gun ownership was rare in Colonial America. It
received Columbia Universitys prestigious Bancroft
Prize in American History and Diplomacy in 2001. Columbia
rescinded the award in December 2002, saying Bellesilles
work was at best misleading and unprofessional.
It was the first time Columbia had taken such an action
in the fifty-four year history of the prize. Knopf has
halted publication of the book.
of Bellesiles thesis and research, which began even
before the book was printed, was originally dismissed
as political backlash from the National Rifle Association
and gun rights proponents. But after legal scholars and
other historians started questioning his data, and publications
such as the Boston Globe, the Yale Law Journal,
and the National Review ran articles and editorials
critical of the book and its underlying research, the
allegations were taken more seriously. Bellesiles was
placed on paid administrative leave while an internal
investigation was completed early last year.
Emorys request, an independent academic panel was
formed to investigate the allegations of scholarly misconduct.
The investigative committee, comprising Stanley N. Katz,
professor of public and international affairs at Princeton;
Hanna H. Gray, professor of history at the University
of Chicago; and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, professor of history
at Harvard, concluded in July 2002 that portions of the
book reflected unprofessional and misleading work
and showed serious deviations from accepted practices
in carrying out and reporting results from research,
including exaggeration of data, errors, and