I always wish I had done something more with this...
Richard Evans (2000), Lying About Hitler: History, the Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial (New York: Basic Books: 0465021522).
Richard Evans (1997), In Defense of History (New York: Norton: 0393319598).
The Irving Case
For about a decade Richard Evans's (1987) book Death in Hamburg: Society and Politics in the Cholera Years 1830-1910 had been on my "read someday" list. But at the beginning of 2000 I ran across his name again. He was to be an expert witness for author Deborah Lipstadt in her defense against David Irving's charge that she had libeled him by calling him a "Holocaust denier."
Irving had sued Lipstadt because her 1994 book Denying the Holocaust, had called him a "discredited" historian with "neofascist" connections, an ardent admirer of Hitler who "on some level... seems to conceive himself as carrying on Hitler's legacy," who skews documents and misquotes evidence to reach historically untenable conclusions in the interest of exonerating Hitler (see Evans (2000), p. 6). Irving demanded that Penguin Books, Lipstadt's publisher, withdraw her book from circulation. Penguin refused. And in the summer of 1996 David Irving sued.
Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books then had two choices: (a) withdraw the book and apologize to Nazi sympathizer David Irving, or (b) defend themselves. And, as Richard Evans explains, under British law a libel defense amounts to a no-holds-barred, fangs-bared, go-for-the-jugular attack on the reputation of the plaintiff. As he writes (Evans (2000), p. 193): "[A] successful libel defense... has to concentrate... on massively defaming the person and character of the plaintiff, the only restriction being that the defamation undertaken in court has to be along the same lines as the defamation that gave rise to the case in the first place, and that it has, of course, to be true." Thus the structure of the case: if she were to escape an adverse judgment, Deborah Lipstadt's attorneys had to demonstrate that David Irving was a Holocaust denier who skews documents and misquotes evidence. In short, they would have to demonstrate that he was "discredited": not a credible historian at all.
It was here that Evans was brought in as an expert to provide an assessment of Irving's work as a historian. He agreed to serve as an expert witness at least in part because he was deeply concerned with what makes a historian: Evans had recently (1997) published a book, In Defense of History, that had wrestled with the question of what historians did, and how they did it.