Front Page Titles (by Subject) Harry Elmer Barnes and Revisionism - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1979, vol. 2, No. 4
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Harry Elmer Barnes and Revisionism - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1979, vol. 2, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Harry Elmer Barnes and Revisionism
“Harry Elmer Barnes and World War I Revisionism: An Absence of Dialogue.” Peace . . . Change 5(Fall 1978):63–69.
Since the early 1920s there has been a lively historical debate assessing the basic responsibility for the coming of World War I. Despite his activities in a number of other areas, it is likely that the historian Harry Elmer Barnes will be most remembered for his role in that debate, especially through his book, The Genesis of the War. Barnes's critics dislike his work for three reasons: it is sympathetic to Germany, makes a joke of some historians' claims to objectivity, and often argues at a personal level.
Perhaps much of Barnes's response grew out of his work at Columbia University and the fact that he had been a propagandist for the war effort. He joined the revisionists early in the 1920s, after reading the work of Sidney B. Fay, and within a few years gained considerable publicity as a focal point of controversy. Many of the problems Barnes faced were the result of conflicting goals. He wanted his work to be both a best-seller and influence social change, while at the same time wishing it to be regarded as detailed, objective scholarship. The many footnotes disguise the haste with which the book was written over a period of some few months.
Barnes tries to show that France and Russia were primarily responsible for the war, with Great Britain playing a secondary role in what occurred. His dislike of militarism “wavers” in the case of Germany. His greatest contradiction on the causes of the war is around the old historical question of determinism versus free will. In the first part of the book he sees the war as largely the result of deep, impersonal factors such as overpopulation and the triumph of Social Darwinism. But by the end of the volume he stresses the responsibility of various individuals for what had happened.
It can be argued that Barnes's whole outlook and reaction to the war is a reflection of the fundamentalist religious upbringing of his youth. The book was generally criticized by American and British historians, but praised by some liberal American publications. Barnes attacks his critics in In Quest of Truth and Justice. What is depressing is that neither he nor his critics were able to open a meaningful dialogue about the war. Barnes seemed unable to understand that his charges about the lack of objectivity in history might also be applied to his own work. The controversy had so damaged his academic career that by the end of the 1920s he chose to leave the university in favor of a career in journalism and the writing of textbooks.