Meta-review of Anne AppleBaum vs. Sheila Fitzpatrick

October 24, 2018 |  Tagged , | Comments Off on Meta-review of Anne AppleBaum vs. Sheila Fitzpatrick

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Benjamin Cofresi

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3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Anne AppleBaum vs. Sheila Fitzpatrick

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5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Before getting into the review of the review by Sheila Fitzpatrick of Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine, I decided to look at the tweets between the various people and on what they had to say about her. It is interesting to see how Applebaum’s work is criticized through twitter and those that support Applebaum. The first obvious is those that know their Soviet history seem automatically opposed to Applebaum off the bat. One of the first interesting interactions between the series of tweets is between Jeffrey Kopstein (@KposteinJeffrey) and Greg Mise-en-abymeogenov (@athenogenes). Greg hits Jeffrey with the condescending statement in regards to Jeffrey’s work in his field, “I’m talking about historians, not political scientists.” Can you feel the tension? In his very next tweet, Jeffrey states that he used communist archives for his research. That then begs the question that if a political scientist has any say so in the historical public sphere and if he has done the research as states, why is he being downplayed by a scholarly historian? However, if you continue to look at the tweets most of the historians in this twitter war would agree that Anne Applebaum’s book is not that great from a historical perspective. It is important to give people there fair chance by providing them with the information that they need in order to make a fair assessment of the material that they are reading.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Based on reading the tweets and reading Sheila Fitzpatrick’s review of Applebaum’s book, it seems that even though Fitzpatrick did say some positive things of the book Red Famine, Applebaum’s supporters are all up in arms about the negatives that were bought up in the review. Fitzpatrick clearly knows who Applebaum’s intended audience is when she is writing “popular history.” The ones who are ranting on twitter will try to discredit Fitzpatrick because she calls the book good but disagrees with the way Applebaum claims that she found her information. I’m no expert on Soviet history but if what Fitzpatrick is saying is true and that there is plenty of secondary sources, then Applebaum has no reason to be pretending that she has dug into the archives in order to make her work look more “scholarly.” Even by quoting from secondary sources that are full of primary sources and keeping the archival citations it could be seen as her doing too much when the work has already been provided for Applebaum. This leads me to think how important it is to having historical training in order to do historical work. Fitzpatrick did the right thing and pointing out the quirky citation mistakes that Applebaum made in her book because as a historian those are one of the first things historians look to in order corroborate what the author is saying is true. When Applebaum supporters are calling Fitzpatrick a Stalinist apologist, I don’t see how can any sane person get that from Fitzpatrick’s review. Fitzpatrick did not downplay Stain’s genocide as one tweet said, she gave us all the factors that led to the famine of the kulaks (peasants) and that it was not just based off of one single person in this case being Stalin. People who are on the opposite argument at times will do anything to run a person through the ringer if they feel what they are reading is perceive negatively in their opinion. In reality what Fitzpatrick was doing is displaying the cold hard facts. If you read the review by Fitzpatrick the reader will see that she actually went about this review in a nice manner with all sorts of compliments.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Applebaum’s response to Fitzpatrick’s review is just as interesting. Applebaum starts off by stating that “I generally try to avoid responding to reviews of my own books,” but then goes on to respond to the review. Applebaum tries to correct two supposed mistakes that Fitzpatrick has made in her review, first about the archival citations and about being Holodomor denier. Applebaum states that she has found some of these archival documents herself but never says that she actually went to the archives to get these documents. Applebaum does mention that she had her researchers get them from a collection of documents, which yes does still make them primary sources but not hands on primary sources as Applebaum might want her readers to believe with her response to Fitzpatrick. Applebaum’s second quip was that Fitzpatrick called her a holodomer denier. Applebaum defends herself by stating that she was using the definition of genocide at the time, then precedes to put the blame on Stalin for the famine and solely Stalin. Fitzpatrick was trying to portray to whoever read the review about Applebaum’s book that her sole focus was that it was all Stalin’s fault. Applebaum overlooks all the positives that Fitzpatrick says about her and only focuses on what Applebaum perceives as negative comments about herself.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 As writers, as cliché as it might sound, constructive criticism comes with the territory. Popular history might not be good history at times but it can be entertaining history. When the public gets interested in history via popular history I would not say it’s a bad thing because they will most likely want to learn more. As historians, we must be able to differentiate to the public what facts are true and what facts are not in an objective manner. As a historian your job is to not mislead people according to your biasness and/or worldviews. Our job as historians is to teach the right history compared to what is read in popular history, of course if we can all be as nice as Fitzpatrick maybe we will get less backlash from the haters.

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