Why is A. D. Harvey still getting published?

I wrote about the strange, sad story of A. D. Harvey back in 2013. He is an independent PhD historian who has published a number of books and articles across a wide variety of topics, including my own field of airpower history, though his best known work is probably Collision of Empires: Britain in Three World Wars, 1793-1945. But as Eric Naiman revealed in a long Times Literary Supplement article, Harvey has also fabricated (falsified, faked) sources in their entirety. In one case (writing as Stephanie Harvey) he made up a meeting between Dickens and Dostoevsky which he published in a scholarly article supported by citations that led to sources which he had also made up. The two never met in reality, or rather there's no other evidence that they did; which is the point, because Harvey's claim was beginning to work its way into the scholarship on Dickens, in particular. He has admitted to all this and much more (he has published under a variety of pseudonyms, often citing and commenting on his own work) but the invented Dickens-Dostoevsky meeting alone is enough to put Harvey beyond the pale as far as the historical profession goes.

Or at least it should be. The strange thing is that he is still getting published:

The World of the Georgians is a special publication produced by BBC History Magazine, a well-known popular history magazine (I've even written for them). Harvey has an article in it titled '"My brilliant career'". The magazine's copyright date is 2016, long after his exposure. Surely he is not the only person qualified to write a popular article on Pitt the Younger; BBC History Magazine should find a better historian.

That's not all. A quick check of the British Library catalogue suggests that Harvey hasn't published any books recently, but an equally quick check of Google Scholar shows that since 2013 he has been regularly published in two journals, Critical Quarterly (most recently July 2016 -- twice!) and Air Power History (most recently fall 2016; apparently an update of a 2009 JRUSI article), and has also been published in a third, The International Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology (September 2015). I count about a dozen contributions to these journals by Harvey, reviews and even short stories (Critical Quarterly is a literature journal) as well as scholarly articles (whether peer-reviewed or not, I'm not sure). Of course, given Harvey's penchant for pseudonyms we really have no idea where else he might be publishing, but he seems to be finding it easy enough to write under his own name. He can publish all the fiction he likes, but his historical scholarship cannot be trusted. Why editors are still giving him a pass is difficult to understand.

Disclaimer: One of Harvey's contributions to Air Power History, in fact the first one after his exposure (and my blog post about him), was a review of my own book. I nearly wrote to the editor of Air Power History to suggest that Harvey might not be an appropriate reviewer, but precisely because it was a fairly terrible review (which Harvey emailed me, and the head of my department, to say it had been published!) I decided that any intervention might seem like sour grapes.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://airminded.org/copyright/.

7 thoughts on “Why is A. D. Harvey still getting published?

  1. Christopher

    Possibly laziness and the need to fill space in these journals. He offers something that looks authoritative and seems to be adequately sourced (this might even be the case). It's low hanging fruit.

  2. Alan Allport

    Collision of Empires is an interesting, sprawling mess of a book, with arguments that are often intriguingly contrary. But I wouldn't trust anything in it without double checking the original sources first.

  3. Alan Allport

    Btw, having said something relatively complimentary about Harvey above, let me add that his review of your book was merely a (failed) attempt at showing off. Embarrassing, but not to the intended target.

  4. a.d.harvey

    Of course it never occurs to any of you to check any of the sources I cite in publications under my own name: it would mean you would actually have to read something other than a blog. My articles in scholarly journals are only ever printed after they have been considered and checked by two or three academic referees. The Dickensian of course was not an academic journal --- have any of you ever LOOKED at it? --- but in any case it wasn't under my own name. Quite a number of well-known academics have published anonymous spoofs; quite a number of them thought my spoof was hilarious.
    By all means put my review of your book on your website, Brett, so your cronies can see what sort of authoritative commentator you are.

  5. Post author

    Christopher:

    True, these are not top-tier journals by any means.

    Alan:

    Thanks -- it was a bit of a shock at the time, but equally it was pretty easy to brush off.

    a.d.:

    Thank you for your interesting comments.

    Of course it never occurs to any of you to check any of the sources I cite in publications under my own name: it would mean you would actually have to read something other than a blog.

    It does in fact occur, all the more after it was revealed that you fabricated a source.

    My articles in scholarly journals are only ever printed after they have been considered and checked by two or three academic referees.

    I think we're all aware here of how peer review works; I've been involved in the process as an author, as a reviewer, and as an editor. The reviewer and the editor are responsible for checking the article. But nobody else in the process can replicate the research carried out by the author; at some level there has to be trust in their integrity. That trust is violated if they fabricate sources.

    The Dickensian of course was not an academic journal --- have any of you ever LOOKED at it? --- but in any case it wasn't under my own name.

    Is it permissible to fabricate sources if you do so under a pseudonym? Is it permissible to fabricate sources if it's not in an academic journal?

    I have actually looked at The Dickensian; it may not be peer-reviewed but is quite obviously scholarly.

    Quite a number of well-known academics have published anonymous spoofs; quite a number of them thought my spoof was hilarious.

    What exactly were you spoofing when you fabricated a source? Did the editor of The Dickensian also think it hilarious that you fabricated a source? (Apparently not, since the PDF version of your article now comes with no less than 8 disclaimers, which isn't bad for only 3 pages of text.)

    By all means put my review of your book on your website, Brett, so your cronies can see what sort of authoritative commentator you are.

    At least I don't fabricate sources.

  6. Found this to be really interesting, Brett.

    Might be worth looking at the Prince of Tricksters by Matt Houlbrook (http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/P/bo18602364.html). I found it to be particularly helpful in thinking about the historian's craft and ideas of trust and authenticity. It's a multi-layered study utilising the confidence trickster as a vehicle to explore these concepts. This chimed closely with your comments about the nature of the peer-reviewing process. This only provides a level of scrutiny, and as you note, trust, convention and form are key parts of establishing the credibility of a piece of work.

  7. Post author

    Thanks, I know of Matt's work but haven't read this. It sounds like an interesting way in. There's a common assumption that fraud is about money, but there are many more possible reasons than that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *