Super Woods!There is little I enjoy more than watching people who have done poor work unintentionally discredit their own scholarship. Thomas Woods recently replied to Eric Muller’s documentation of his activities in the secessionist “League of the South.” Well, “replied” may be giving him a little too much credit, since he never lets us know whether he agrees with the league or not (his argument as to why he should not—and I’m not making this up—is that it would stab some fine people in the back to publicly disagree with them). In a final moment of self-righteous indignation, Woods tells us his past shouldn’t matter. We should focus, he claims, only on the last five years:
My scholarly career officially began in 2000, so people who care to criticize me as a scholar are invited to consider my work since then. That's four books (with a fifth coming in May), two edited volumes, two monographs, several book chapters, a dozen encyclopedia entries, and about 120 articles. That should keep you busy enough.
Wow, five books and one hundred and twenty articles—that’s a lot! In fact, by my count, that’s twenty four articles per year, two articles per month, or an article every two weeks. And he manages to write these compelling examples of thorough research while also publishing a new book (including one that’s supposed to prove just about entire historical community wrong) every year.
I admit it; I can’t keep up with that pace. Indeed very few scholars can. After all, doing quality original research requires traveling to archives, reading tens of thousands of documents and continually revising the research project. In fact great examples of scholarship often take the slowpokes who go through the trouble of doing exhaustive research a decade or more to complete.
Maybe Woods has the National Archives on tape, and listens to documents on the way to work. Or maybe he has cybernetics installed in his brain. Perhaps he can learn merely by tactile contact with a historical document.
A more likely story is that the majority of this work he is referencing is either utter crap, or not research driven scholarship.
Scholars have published monumental works from the right that have redefined the way we study major historical issues. But you can’t do that the lazy way. Excellent work that changes a field requires diligence, patience, and time. Woods, like Malkin, wants to slap some words on a page, and just move on to the next ill-conceived an entirely unproven argument. But life doesn’t work that way.