Allen Weinstein: Friends Praise His Integrity

Historians in the News

Jo-Ann Moriarty, in the Republican (Sept. 20, 2004):

... Friends and colleagues at both Smith College and Boston University described Weinstein as someone who is very bright, charming, controversial, an opportunist, a serious scholar and historian and as someone whose politics shifted from the liberal left in the 1960s to the right.

Still, colleagues at Smith who had close social and professional relationships with Weinstein believe that while his politics have changed dramatically, as a historian he is ultimately bounded by the truth and not party loyalty.

"I think Allen would do an absolutely first-rate professional job," says Howard Nenner, who taught the history of England at Smith and was close friends with Weinstein.

Nenner said that when Weinstein began researching the case of Alger Hiss, an American working for the State Department who was suspected of spying for the Soviets, he believed that Hiss was innocent.

In his book, "Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case," Weinstein documented the opposite, that Hiss was a Soviet operative, Nenner said.

The research and conclusion incited strong reactions from both sides of the political spectrum, Nenner said. Nenner added that his friend "has been a controversial figure for a long time."

Peter Rose, a professor emeritus of sociology and anthropology at Smith, said that as a colleague he believed Weinstein "was a superb historian of modern American history, a fine writer and a very good investigative historian."

"He was always interested in social issues," Rose said, explaining that Weinstein edited a book about slavery.

Durbin, during the committee's hearing on the nomination, told Weinstein: "I think I know where your heart is, but I want to know where your lawyers will be."

To which Weinstein answered: "You make a good point."

Stanley M. Elkins, a professor of history at Smith College from 1960 through 1994, hired Weinstein. Elkins, a lifelong Democrat, is aware that Weinstein's political views are now different than when they first met.

From what he understands of Weinstein's character, Elkins believes he will base his decisions on the way a historian thinks, not a politician.

"My own feeling about Allen is that he is a good researcher, and I can't see him repressing information because it is not to the advantage of the Republican Party," Elkins said. "If the Bush administration appoints him with that in mind, they are in for a disappointment."

comments powered by Disqus