An online petition addressed to the president of the Sorbonne University (Université Paris 1) claims that the University’s Pierre Mendès France Library declined a user’s request that it stock the French translated version of Prof Geoffrey Roberts’ book, Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War 1939-1953.
The authors of the petition claimed that the library issued the following response to the request: “The proposed work, although it was written by a university professor, does not in principle seem to us to display the historical and scientific neutrality required for it to be included on our shelves. Nor do the other books published by the same publishing house.”
Prof Roberts said the library’s apparent refusal to stock his book surprised him.
“It’s never happened before,” he said. “It’s a work of scholarship. It has some very strong opinions, not everyone agrees with it, but to characterise it the way they’ve characterised it is completely wrong.”
The book was originally published in 2006 by Yale University Press and the French translation was released last year by Editions Delga, which describes itself as “a publishing house specialising in the humanities engaged in the defence of public cultural service, Marxist research and history of the international communist movement”.
Prof Roberts said he understood the English edition of his book was carried in the Sorbonne’s libraries.
In a statement, he described the tome as a “highly partisan book” that argues strongly that Josef Stalin was “a very effective war leader who played a decisive role in the defeat of Hitler”.
“It is also a work of scholarship that is based on all the available evidence and careful weighing of different arguments,” Prof Roberts said.
“It has been extensively reviewed but not even its worst critics have questioned its scholarly integrity.”
“My most recent book — Stalin’s General: The Life of Georgy Zhukov — won the Society of Military History’s Distinguished Book Award. My articles have been published in some of the world’s top history and international relations journals. My books may be found in university libraries across the world. There can be no reason for an academic library to prohibit the purchase of Les Guerres de Staline, except political prejudice.”
The petition — submitted under the names of Godefroy Clair, Research Engineer at Université Paris 8, Annie Lacroix-Riz, Professor Emeritus of contemporary history at Université Paris 7 and Aymeric Monville, editor-in-chief, Editions Delga — claims the refusal to stock the book is a part of a wider “McCarthyist censorship” in French universities.
READ NEXT: Alison O'Connor on why we need a balance that incorporates diversity in our media