Irving v. Lipstadt

Defense Documents

David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial: Electronic Edition, by Richard J. Evans

Table of Contents
2.6 Conclusion >>

2.2 Qualifications

2.2.1 'I am an untrained historian', Irving confessed in 1986: 'History was the only subject I flunked when I was at school.'2 Several decades on from his self-confessedly disastrous schoolboy encounter with the subject, however, Irving now lays great stress on the fact that he is a 'reputable historian'.3 The term historian, he says, is not reserved for those with academic qualifications. Elsewhere he has declared:
As an independent historian, I am proud that I cannot be threatened with the loss of my job, or my pension, or my future. Other historians around the world sneer and write letters to the newspapers about 'David Irving, the so-called historian', and they demand, Why does he call himself a Historian anyway? Where did he study History? Where did he get his Degree? What, No Degree in History, then why does   he call himself a Historian?" My answer to them, Was Pliny a historian or not? Was Tacitus? Did he get a degree in some university? Thucydides? Did he get a degree? And yet we unashamedly call them historians - we call them historians because they wrote history which has done (recte : gone) down the ages as accepted true history.4
There is a good deal to say for this argument.
2.2.2 Irving was born in 1938 and started, but never finished, a science degree at London University. As he suggests in the above passage, he has no academic qualifications as a historian and has never held a university or other academic post in a history department or institute or indeed in any other subject area. However, although these are serious initial disadvantages for becoming a professional historian, there are plenty of examples of reputable and successful historians whose lack of formal academic qualifications is as striking as Irving's. It is possible to learn the trade over a number of years, and there are many journalists and freelance writers who have clearly done so. It would be quite wrong to argue, as a general principle, that writers on historical subjects who have no academic qualifications in history, or who do not have, and have never had, a university of other academic post in history, do not deserve to be called historians. Any assessment of Irving's status as a writer on historical subjects has to be based squarely on an assessment of what he has written; he cannot be dismissed simply and solely because he is unqualified in a formal sense.

Notes

2. Videotape 175: speech at the Elangani Hotel, Durban, South Africa, 5 March 1986.
3. Statement of claim, 1; Reply to Defence of Second Defendant, p.2.
4. David Irving on Freedom of Speech. Speech at Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. October 28, 1992.Transcript on Irving's 'Focal Point' website.
Popups by overLIB