A few weeks ago I received a flyer from a publisher who shall remain nameless. They are soliciting people to write pro and con essays on various historical controversies. I realize that projects can change a lot, but at present it looks like rubbish. They combine…
-Interesting historical questions like if American slavery was profitable, or if Nestorius was really a Nestorian.
-Trivia like the authorship of Shakespeare or if Richard III killed the princes.
-Crazy stuff like did Atlantis exist, and is the Holy Grail really in Wales.
They also want someone to write on the Menzies controversy. I suppose if they put him in with Atlantis and the Welch Grail I would be o.k. with that. Still, it was bothersome to me to see someone entirely lacking in credibility like Menzies being mixed up with real history.
Then this week I got something much worse. Worlds of History: A Comparative Reader vol II, published by Bedford St. Martin’s and edited by Kevin Reilly of Raritan Valley College. It is a collection of short primary and secondary readings on various topics in World History. Surprise, surprise, there is a selection from Menzies’ book. Reilly points out that Menzies’swork has “caused a stir among historians”, and states that this selection “contains the author’s more reliable discussion of preparations for the great Chinese naval expedition of 1421.” which at least implies that the editor does not take Menzies seriously. The actual selection just a summary of stuff about the Ming and the tribute system and there is nothing obviously dishonest about it.
So why does it bother me so much? I normally am not all that concerned with issues of status, but it really bothers me to see an obvious fraud like Menzies getting exposure and credibility. Soon he will be as solidly lodged in history as George Washington’s cherry tree, Qin Shihuang burying the Confucians, and Francis Bacon as Shakespeare.