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In "Moses in the Hieroglyphs", by Grant Berkley (Trafford, 2006) there appears the following astonishing assertion, relating to professional historians and archaeologists:

In academic circles the late 20th century saw the culmination of the practice where no academic ever criticised the blunderings of any other academic.

(This is used in support of Berkley's controversial thesis, that the ancient Egyptians spoke Welsh.)

It seems unlikely to me that academics in this period were as united as Berkley characterises them, but as this is not my field I can't point to anything specific in refutation.

So what were the subjects of the big battles within the academies of History and Archaeology during this period?

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    I suppose the biggest battle has been with pseudoscience, i.e. ancient aliens, Atlantis, young earth creationism, etc.
    – Spencer
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 16:38
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    Into which category "the ancient Egyptians spoke Welsh" fits nicely.
    – Spencer
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 16:55
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    Thanks, but I am looking for an argument between academics rather than with outsiders. Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 17:01
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    Bernard Baylin comes to mind. Fukuyama and the End of History Marxism. Stalinism.. What role women played in history. What role non-cis folks played. The damage done by the Victorians to history. I guess CRT might be 21st century, but it rests on work done in the 20th century.
    – MCW
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 18:23
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    "… Berkley's controversial thesis, that the ancient Egyptians spoke Welsh." I think that alone says enough. I've never heard of this Berkley person, but if you believe an obviously crazy idea like "the ancient Egyptians spoke Welsh", you pretty much have to also believe that all historians, linguists, etc. who don't believe it (which is pretty much everyone, for obvious reasons) must be either utterly incompetent, part of a giant conspiracy, or both. (Of course, that doesn't prove that they're not. But it does prove that the person making the claim has a rather shaky grasp on reality.) Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 11:23

4 Answers 4

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In academic circles the late 20th century saw the culmination of the practice where no academic ever criticised the blunderings of any other academic.

Well, that shows Berkley to be an ignoramus with an axe to grind. Let's list some genuine 20th-century historical controversies. These are from WWII and related history, because that's what I know the most about.

  • The Functionalism-Intentionalism debate over the origins of the Holocaust and the political structure of Nazi Germany.
  • The debate over Hitler's war aims: was he intending to conquer Europe, Eurasia, Eurasia and Africa, or the whole world?
  • The Historians' dispute among different political views within historians in West Germany in the late 1980s.
  • The New Historians in Israel, who challenge the traditional narrative of the founding of modern Israel.

There are many, many more. Disputing other people's historical theories is one of the primary ways that historians improve their understanding of history.

(This is used in support of Berkley's controversial thesis, that the ancient Egyptians spoke Welsh.)

That's not controversial. It's nonsense. The only way he could support that claim would be if everyone who has learned Ancient Egyptian were part of a conspiracy to conceal its being a Celtic language, part of the Indo-European family. Since Egyptian is an Afro-Asiatic language, that makes his idea less linguistically plausible than the Black Egyptian hypothesis, which is quite a feat.

Since the titles of Grant Berkley's other books are The Discovery of the Ark of the Covenant and The King Arthur Conspiracy, you can safely write him off as a conspiracy theorist and a pseudo-historian.

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    Yes, I am aware Berkley is a crank but it's always good to come at these people with plenty of ammunition, which you have helped with, considerably. Thanks! Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 20:01
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    @AlfredArmstrong - I get that for someone who is garden-variety wrong. However, this is well into not even wrong territory. There's no use even engaging with such people, as they aren't actually trying to do proper History or even logic. You're trying to reason with the wind.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 16:43
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    @T.E.D., do not fear, I am not attempting to argue directly with Berkley and his chums, merely write about his "work" on my own website. Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 19:49
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    @AlfredArmstrong: If you're sure you want to get this stuff on you . . . Commented Mar 21, 2023 at 7:51
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    Of course Egyptian history has long been plagued by racists who couldn't accept that the forefathers of the naturally-tanned afro-asiatic speakers inhabiting that area were capable of producing the foremost archeticetural achievements of the ancient era. Coming up with alternate identites for the rulers of Egypt in crass modern racial terms is also a fan favorite among racists. "Welsh" is a new (and particularly wild) one on me, but it fits right into the genre.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 21, 2023 at 14:14
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There are even disputes in the 21st century, e.g. around Christopher Clark's Sleepwalkers or about whether there actually ever was a Cathar heresy.

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After some renewed googling I managed to find articles relating to the Tărtăria tablets, which seem to fit the bill quite well, but I'd still be interested to learn about other cases.

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    You should include the key points from the Wikipedia article and show how this example works as an answer to your question.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 19:56
  • Thanks @SteveBird, yes, I realise that in my haste to get my discovery on record I failed to write a good answer. Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 19:59
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Some historical disputes even became books, as in Scientists Confront Velikovsky.

Many more propaganda masquerading as history was and is heavily criticized. Such "history textbooks" were and are fairly common in autocratic countries, and, of course, heavily criticized.

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