Any credible ranking of the dozen most famous historians of the twentieth century will include Hugh Trevor-Roper, Baron Dacre of Glanton. Prodigiously erudite and a superb writer, he was a dominant figure in two disparate fields: early modern Europe and the Nazi era. His achievements earned him a Regius professorship at Oxford from Harold Macmillan and a life peerage from Margaret Thatcher. But, on his death in 2003, none of these distinctions made it into the first line of his obituary. “Hitler Diary Hoax Victim Lord Dacre dies at 89,” announced The Times of London.

Two decades earlier, the same newspaper had been humiliated when Trevor-Roper, as its highly paid expert, had mistakenly authenticated fifty diaries supposedly penned by Adolf Hitler from 1932 until his suicide. This blunder was only exposed after the newspaper had purchased the counterfeit diaries at enormous cost and had publicized them breathlessly. The...

 

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