More on historical ‘expertise’

Among the claims Professor Bellesiles made in his Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture — a book once acclaimed and now thoroughly discredited — was that there was no significant market for guns in early America. Clayton Cramer, one of Bellesiles’ most effective debunkers, describes the results of a quick look at 18th and early 19th c. newspapers: you just can’t avoid the gun ads. As Cramer asks, why did the experts, many of them specialists in the period, who praised the book and gave Bellesiles the Bancroft Award get taken in so easily? As in the case of expert opinion on affirmative action, it’s enough to make you think that experts have collective interests — identical with those of the managerial state — that color and sometimes determine their findings.