Is It Plagiarism?

Unpacking the allegations against prominent Princeton historian Kevin Kruse

L.D. Burnett
15 min readJun 19, 2022


The cover of Kevin Kruse’s 2015 monograph. Photo © L.D. Burnett, 2022.

Many things can be true at once.

In this essay, I hope to distinguish what is arguably true — what can be reasonably asserted using the evidence at hand — from what is either insufficiently-supported speculation, flawed interpretation, or intentional misrepresentation.

It would be both lovely and rare for polemicists who have already decided what they think about this controversy to read my entire essay and then challenge any points with which they disagree. However, this is the internet, so I am keeping my expectations in check.

Let me set out in brief what I can say is true about the claims made in the Reason article about Kevin Kruse’s writing — what I can reasonably assert from the evidence at hand. Then I will discuss the claims in that piece that are either insufficiently supported, flawed, or flat-out wrong. Finally, I will attempt to assess these accusations in their totality.

Here’s what is true.

The introduction/methodology section of Kevin Kruse’s dissertation includes six sentences that are slightly-altered versions of other authors’ work without including a citation for the original sources, which indicates that those six sentences are probably plagiarized.

If there are any other plagiarized passages in Kruse’s work, they will likely come to light in the next few weeks, probably as a result of intense scrutiny by fellow scholars.

Kruse’s accuser seems to be a bad-faith actor whose primary aim is to discredit rather than to improve the practice of academic history, and the Reason article is a hit job designed to destroy Kruse’s reputation and besmirch other historians.

All of these things can be true at the same time. In the paragraphs to follow, I will discuss each of these claims and suggest how we should reckon with them separately and in totality.

Six sentences of Kruse’s dissertation are probably plagiarized.

Plagiarism is an author’s intentional or unintentional presentation of someone else’s words, arguments, or ideas as the author’s own work.



L.D. Burnett

Writer and historian from / in California’s Great Central Valley. Book, “Western Civilization: The History of an American Idea,” under contract w/ UNC Press.