Facebook Twitter

Historian admits copying passages

SHARE Historian admits copying passages

HELENA, Mont. — The historian Stephen E. Ambrose acknowledged over the weekend that he had copied sentences and phrases in his best-selling book "The Wild Blue" from another historian's work. He apologized and said it had been inadvertent.

In a column in this week's Weekly Standard, executive editor Fred Barnes, accuses Ambrose of borrowing passages from Thomas Childers' 1995 book, "The Wings of Morning," without adequately acknowledging his debt.

Childers, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said that he too had noticed the echoes of his own words. Both books tell the stories of airmen flying bombers in World War II, and Ambrose credits "The Wings of Morning" in a footnote as a source of information, but in it he does not acknowledge taking words or phrases.

Ambrose declined to comment directly. On Saturday, his son and agent, Hugh Ambrose, explained that Stephen Ambrose had agreed to give an exclusive interview on the subject to a television program. Instead, Stephen Ambrose issued a statement through Adam Rothberg, a spokesman for his publisher, the Simon & Schuster division of Viacom.

"Dr. Childers is correct," Ambrose said, "I made a mistake for which I am sorry. It will be corrected in future editions of the book."

Rothberg said the passages in question will appear in quotation marks in future editions.

The disclosure is likely to further a debate among historians about the kind of blockbuster history that Ambrose writes. Some said that such mistakes were inevitably more common when a historian tried to produce dramatic, detailed and highly accessible narratives about far-flung subjects as quickly as Ambrose did.

Although only a handful of passages in Ambrose's roughly 300-page book borrow directly from Childers' work, several sentences are strikingly similar or are repeated verbatim.

Told of Ambrose's apology on Saturday, Childers said, "I think it is a classy thing to do, and I appreciate it." He added that it was consistent with his impression of Ambrose as a fellow historian. After the publication of "The Wings of Morning," Childers said, he received a letter from Ambrose praising the book and its writing. Childers had never met Ambrose and called the letter an unusually gracious gesture from a fellow scholar.