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[Our dossier on Professor Richard "Skunky" Evans ]


Joel Hayward: Martin Lally (a New Zealand academic*) challenges Professor Richard "Skunky" Evans

[* Professor Martin Lally, Associate Professor at Victoria University's School of Economics and Finance, organised the petition criticising the actions of the University of Canterbury.]

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Dear Richard

Thanks for your response, which appears below. I appreciate that you are busy.

I note that you don't wish to answer the latest questions that I have posed. Of course, that is your privilege. You also note that I have not addressed any of the arguments that you put forward in response to my first round of questions (although strangely your email finishes with the contrary claim that all of the ground has been covered more than once). Your complaint is a fair one to raise, and it was my intention to deal with your arguments in due course. However, if you would prefer me to do that now, I am happy to do so. I would appreciate it if you framed your points in terms of questions that you wish me to respond to. If you wish, you can ask a set of questions or alternatively ask one question, wait on my response, then move to the next question (in the style of a cross examination).

At the end of all this (you will be the judge of that), I hope that you will then be willing to respond to my questions, but this is not essential. I am interested in your questions at least as much as I am in your answers, and I acknowledge the possibility that I am wrong in this matter.

Your email here implicitly poses at least one question. So, if you can forgive the presumption, I will answer that one here.

QUESTION 1: Should a university recognise a work of holocaust denial?

READERS should be aware that the New Zealand journalist Philip Matthews who may contact them about Dr Hayward is working for the newspaper The Listener, and writing on behalf of a special interest group which is trying to destroy Dr Hayward's career.

ANSWER 1: The word university here could be interpreted to mean a university administrator or an academic acting as an examiner on the thesis. I will consider both possibilities. First, regarding university administrators, I do not think that any university administrator should assert that certain propositions regarding the past are now settled, and must never again be questioned in a thesis. This would be true even if no new evidence had been unearthed, and therefore the debate was limited to reinterpretation of the existing evidence. Should new evidence be unearthed, it would be doubly remarkable for any university administrator to refuse to award a degree that presented and analysed that new information. To do so in the face of new information would itself constitute a case of denial.

Turning now to the question of whether an academic examiner on a thesis should recognise a work of holocaust denial, my view is that they should read it and then reach a conclusion based upon that reading. I am not aware of any other method of assessing a thesis. If there are other recognised methodologies in assessing History theses, I would be grateful to be apprised of them.

I look forward to your next question or questions.

Martin Lally

Friday, 29 August 2003

Dear Martin,

Apologies for the delay in replying. My time over the last week has been fully taken up by correcting the proofs of both English and German editions of my next book, due out in October.

It's time to wrap this up, I think. As I said in my last email, I am not going to answer your latest questions because I think they are not only loaded but also beside the point, which is not procedural but substantive. Your additional questions are even more pedantically remote from the central issues of whether or not a university should recognise a work of Holocaust denial, or a work devoted to vindicating it. You yourself have not addressed any of the central arguments I put forward in response to your questions.

I note that Dr Hayward was given considerable space in the New Zealand Herald on Monday to attacking me, using the same selective and biased techniques that are so evident in his MA thesis. Lest anyone should take what he says seriously, let me make the following points.

  • First, Hayward implies I am biased because I was paid for my work. On the Irving case I was paid the standard hourly rate that all expert witnesses are paid. Is Dr Hayward implying that no expert witnesses in any court cases can be trusted because they are paid for their work? As for my commission from the NZJC to report on Hayward's thesis, I undertook the work (about four working days) on the same basis as I would have done as an external examiner, and I asked for the usual token fee that an external examiner is paid. I did not want to be seen to be doing the work on a political basis, which no doubt I would have been accused of doing had I lent my services free of charge, but on a professional basis.
  • Second, to repeat what I wrote in the NZH, the Working Party did not say I was highly partisan - this is pure invention on Hayward's part - but accepted my criticisms of his thesis as resting on a strong scholarly foundation.
  • Thirdly, Hayward says I applied excessively high standards in judging his thesis. This is not so. Any thesis at any level, even an undergraduate dissertation, has to conform to basic standards of scholarship: it has to master the relevant secondary literature and it has to deal with its topic in a balanced, obje ctive and thorough manner. Hayward's thesis failed on all these counts.
  • Fourthly, I did point out that the topic Hayward covered was far too large for an MA thesis, and the thesis itself was far too long and tried to cover far more ground than was possible in the time available. This is the fault of Canterbury University, whose then regulations let him down. But it does not excuse the systematic tendentiousness , bias, double standards, lack of objectivity and all the other faults that the Working Party agreed were present in the thesis.

Richard EvansFinally, Dr Hayward repeats some of the Holocaust deniers' claims that he supported in his thesis (that most historians of the Holocaust are Jewish, for example) and which, despite the selective quotes in his article, his thesis used to try and discredit their work. It would be nice to see him admit he was wrong on this and other claims he makes in the thesis, as he has not done so far.

I think we have covered all the ground more than once now, so I'll sign off.

Best wishes,

Richard J. Evans
Professor of Modern History
University of Cambridge





Our dossier on the Joel Hayward case | Our dossier on Professor Richard "Skunky" Evans 
NZ Journalist Philip Matthews asks Lally how this correspondence with Evans is being leaked to this website
Aug 19, 2003: University chief's job in doubt. The position of Canterbury (NZ) University Vice-Chancellor Roy Sharp to be reviewed after Hayward scandal
Richard J. Evans: Academic standards the issue, not freedom | Joel Hayward replies, reminds readers that Evans was highly paid to destroy him
Lecturer warns he will stay at university to battle for academic freedom
The petition (pdf, 56K)
© Focal Point 2003 e-mail:  write to David Irving