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Geoff Metcalf
October 26, 2002

Emory University has “accepted the resignation” of Michael Bellesiles from his position as Professor of history effective December 31, 2002. That is the official word from Robert A. Paul, Interim Dean of Emory College and the final nail in the coffin of one of the most embarrassing, disingenuous, duplicitous, allegedly “scholarly” debates in recent memory.

In typical academia form vs. substance dissembling, Bellesiles is allowed to “resign” (arguably for the good of the university). 

  • He should have been fired! 
  • His saber should have been broken in half!
  • The buttons cut off his jacket!
  • He should have been marched out of the front gates to the beat of drums!

Dean Paul wrote, “Although we would not normally release any of the materials connected with a case involving the investigation of faculty misconduct in research, in light of the intense scholarly interest in the matter I have decided, with the assent of Professor Bellesiles as well as of the members of the Investigative Committee, to make public the report of the Investigative Committee appointed by me to evaluate the allegations made against Professor Bellesiles (none of the supporting documents, however, are being made public). The text of the report is now available online at 

In December of 2000, shortly after the release of the controversial, "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture." I interviewed Bentley College professor Dr. Joyce Malcolm  Bellesiles claimed that colonial Americans did not, by and large, own or value firearms.  Huh?  Malcolm wasn’t the Lone Ranger in rejecting the assertions made by Bellesiles in his book…just one of the first to publish a refutation.

Malcolm said, “He claims that the idea that guns were influential in America's past, that many Americans had them during the colonial era or afterwards, is really all a myth. In fact, he says that guns were rare and that Americans were not interested in them; that the colonists thought that the ax was as useful as the gun; that the colonial legislatures kept trying to get people to pay attention and be interested in having arms; that guns were not used for hunting; and that there was a complete disinterest in them until just before the Civil War.” 

When I observed that the first three battles of the War for Independence were over gun control (confiscation of powder and ball) Malcolm sardonically laughed.

Malcolm suggested Bellesiles had done sloppy work.  Several months later in 2001 I interviewed historian Clayton Cramer .  Cramer was harsher in his criticism suggesting Bellesiles made up stuff, ignored data that contradicted his prejudice, and engaged in intentional fabrications.

The Emory Investigative Committee Report begrudgingly explored five issues. 

Notwithstanding the obvious difficulty they had in damning one of their own, and excesses of qualifying phrases, Emory (to their credit) eventually refused to defend the indefensible. 

They noted the "pertinent part" of their Statement on Standards states, "Integrity is one of these issues."  WHOOPS!  They go on to write the “…most egregious misrepresentation" had to do with not including data that contradicted his hypothesis. 

This unfortunately is typical of the liberal left whenever they are confronted with facts or data, which undermines their preconceived opinions, prejudices, or doctrine.  They either ignore the contradictory facts, OR attempt to discredit anything or anyone with the audacity to contradict THEM.

Specifically Bellesiles explained a gross omission by stating "he did NOT include Jones's data because her inventories, taken during the build-up to the American Revolution, showed a disproportionately high number of guns."  Even the gathered PhDs at Emory were forced to concede, "Here is a clear admission of misrepresentation..."

In April of 2001 Handgun Control and the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence others were crowing about Bellesiles having received the prestigious “Bancroft Prize” for his book.  Columbia University History Department and Libraries present the “Bancroft” to the authors of books of exceptional merit and distinction in the fields of American history and biography.  Boy do they have egg on their faces!

“This award is well-earned,” said Michael Barnes, President of Handgun Control and the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence. “Professor Bellesiles has produced a work of unquestionable historical and societal merit.”

Uh….hold on…..not really Michael…NOT EVEN.  The “societal merit” of the work he called “unquestionable historical and societal merit.” HAS been questioned…questioned by the author’s own University and it has be found to be “egregiously” flawed.

So, the only remaining question is what will Columbia do to correct their politically correct “aw whoops”?  Will they take back the prize?  If they don’t, what will it do to their reputation as a bastion of scholarly intent?

© 2002 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved

Geoff is a veteran media performer. He has had an eclectic professional background covering a wide spectrum of radio, television, magazine, and newspapers.  A former Green Beret and retired Army officer he is in great demand as a speaker. Metcalf has hosted his radio talk show on the ABC/Disney owned and operated KSFO and in worldwide syndication.