Famous professor and historian accused of plagiarism

Star historian Laurent Turcot was accused of plagiarism and called to order by his university last fall, but escaped sanctions.

Professor in the history department of the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières (UQTR), Mr. Turcot is regularly invited by the media. On Radio-Canada as well as on TVA.


The star historian (center) in the Salut Bonjour program, in 2018.

courtesy photo

The star historian (center) in the Salut Bonjour program, in 2018.

For the government corporation, he produced, among other things, a podcast entitled Fan d’histoire in which he discussed personalities such as Guylaine Tremblay and Guy A. Lepage. On YouTube, he has a channel called History Will Tell Us, which has more than 375,000 subscribers.


Laurent Turcot (left) on the program Tout le monde en parle in 2020.

courtesy photo

Laurent Turcot (left) on the program Tout le monde en parle in 2020.


Laurent Turcot's YouTube channel has more than 375,000 subscribers.

Screenshot

Laurent Turcot’s YouTube channel has more than 375,000 subscribers.

It was in the summer of 2021 that an anonymous complaint was filed with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), a federal grant agency.

The complaint was about his book. Sport and leisure: a story from the origins to the present day, published in 2016 by Gallimard editions.


laurent turkish

criticize the editor

The SSHRC alerted the UQTR, which deemed the complaint “admissible” and formed a committee of three academics to investigate 13 passages in the book.

In front of him, Mr. Turcot defended himself as follows: his book had been prepared from course notes, which included sentences copied elsewhere without reference.

He also contended that in going back and forth with the editor, he or she may have inadvertently removed footnotes, quotation marks, and references while trying to “air” the text.

The verdict of the UQTR committee, which was delivered in October, was that there was indeed a “breach of responsible investigative conduct”.

In an “official letter” addressed to Mr. Turcot sent to the Trunk For the UQTR, the Vice-Rector for Research Sébastien Charles writes: “Some quotes from his book are not presented as such […], which constitutes plagiarism. »

“Extremely serious”

However, “in light of all the facts”, it was decided that Mr. Turcot would not be punished. There was no “deliberate and malicious use” of plagiarism, the committee ruled, in a report to which the Trunk had access (but a passage from which it is redacted).

In interview with The newspaperMr Charles maintains that the accusations of plagiarism are “extremely serious” and that the professor showed a “lack of rigor in creating and editing the book”.

Hence the “official letter” to Mr. Turcot reminding him of “the importance of rigorous work in the preparation of [ses] publications”.

joined by The newspaper on two occasions, Laurent Turcot admitted that “some mistakes were made”, but insists: all this was done without “bad faith”.

The University summoned Mr. Turcot to contact his publisher “to agree on corrective measures.” Gallimard later confirmed to us that corrections would be made in a reissue.

“Using all or part of someone else’s text passing it off as one’s own or without indicating the references,” according to the rules of the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières.

THE CONSEQUENCES

FOR STUDENTS

  • “Course failure
  • “The suspension of the program for one or more sessions for a maximum duration not exceeding 24 months
  • “Temporary or permanent exclusion from the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières”, according to the establishment.

FOR TEACHERS

  • Penalties vary. In 2012, the UQAM recommended the dismissal of Professor Robert Robillard, from the Accounting Department. An outside expert had determined that he had plagiarized. In 2014, an arbitrator ruled that a six-month suspension was sufficient, which the High Court upheld the following year.

In Turcot’s book

“Place par excellence of sociability in all social classes, the Parisian cafe of the 19th centuryY century also finds a privileged place in French literature: from the most elegant to the most modest, none have escaped the detailed description of the spirit that animated them. A place where one sees and where one is seen, a spectacle in itself, it is a kind of theater. »

original excerpt

“Place par excellence of sociability in all social classes, the Parisian cafe of the 19th centuryY century has found a privileged place in French literature: from the most elegant to the most modest, none have escaped the detailed description of the spirit that animated them. Place where one sees and where one is seen, a spectacle in itself, it is a kind of theater [sic]. »

SOURCE: Laurent Portes, “Cafés, bistros, caboulots…”, 2013, digital article on the Gallica site of the BNF

In Turcot’s book

“The golden age of dances is in the middle of the century and the establishments that organize them are not only places of sociability; they also lend themselves to physical relaxation, even sports performance. Proof of this is the unleashing of the “gallopes”, the “polka”, or the “French cancan”, the “eccentric” flights of famous dancers such as Grille d’Égout or Valentin le Désossé. High dance places are a must like the Mabille ball, the Closerie des Lilas, the Moulin Rouge or the Moulin de la Galette. »

original excerpt

“The golden age of the ball is in the middle of the century […] a place of sociability; it also lends itself to physical relaxation and even sports performance. Proof of this is the unleashing of the “gallopes”, the “polka”, or the “French cancan”, the “eccentric” flights of famous dancers such as Grille d’Égout or Valentin le Désossé. […] High dance places are a must like the Mabille ball, the Closerie des Lilas, the Moulin Rouge or the Moulin de la Galette. »

SOURCE: Paul Gerbod, “On Parisian Leisure in the Nineteenth Century”), French Ethnology, Volume 23, No 4, 1993, p. 616

In Turcot’s book

“Out of some 230 charioteers and agitators listed, there is only one free-born coachman. »

“In a twenty-four-year career, he won no fewer than 4,257 races. »

original excerpt

“Out of some 230 charioteers and agitators listed, there is only one free-born coachman. »

“In 24 years of career, he participated in 4,257 races. »

SOURCE: Jocelyne Nelis-Clément, “Circus professions, from Rome to Byzantium: between text and image”, Cahiers du center Gustave Glotz, vol. 13, 2002, p. 274

Alleges the error “in good faith”

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In a first interview with The newspaperLaurent Turcot had denied any responsibility for the plagiarized passages in his book.

In a second call, the academic admitted that “mistakes” may have been made by him and by others.

“We are always responsible for our text,” says Mr. Turcot.

He insists that he never wanted to “appropriate” the work of others.

This complaint stems, according to him, from a vendetta by a “colleague” who has “harassed” him for seven years.

“He attacked me physically and verbally! “, lance.

The removal of quotation marks and references, in the incriminated passages, is explained according to him in most cases.

They are “course notes” transformed into a “summary book”, “general public”, he insists.

Furthermore, it was halfway through the history of sport and leisure course that he decided to turn his notes into a book. From there, he would have been “more precise” in what he pointed out.

lawyer letter

In several of the cases raised, Mr. Turcot believes that the publisher is responsible for the problem, since the quotation marks were indeed there, he swears, in the initial version of the manuscript. He did not send this to the Trunk as we request.

On March 23, instead, he sent us a letter from his lawyer Jean-François Bertrand in which he tries to explain 13 cases:

  • For three passages copied from a website, Mr. Turcot maintains that they are in fact from previously published books, books that he had consulted and which he cites elsewhere in his work. But these three notes unfortunately would have disappeared during the editing work, he argues.
  • Seven other passages copied and used without quotation marks come from works cited elsewhere in Sports and Recreation, plot. Mr. Turcot sees this as proof that he did not attempt to hide the sources from him.
  • Based on our analysis, for the other three excerpts, Turcot was unable to provide any clear explanation.

When he learned that a complaint had been filed against him, the historian maintains that he acted quickly. In August, he posted an expanded bibliography on a website (laurentturcot.ca) that included the 13 missing references. In his eyes, this “fixes things.”

In the eyes of the editor responsible for the book by Laurent Turcot, the faults of which the University accuses the professor are only “blunder”.

“This is all disproportionate to the misdeed,” Sophie Kucoyanis, head of the Folio History collections at Gallimard, said when contacted in Paris.

In his eyes, it is also a “shared fault”.

“The author, thinking that he was doing the right thing, cut quotes and fonts that weighed down the subject and the publisher did not realize this type of cut. So there is shared blame because the author should not have done that. And the editor should have seen it. »

Furthermore, “no author or publisher” of the plagiarized works has addressed “any complaint about this book,” he said.

Laurent Turcot says that the University reviewed his book and found no additional instances of plagiarism.

“These are the only 13 cases,” he insisted.

He specified that the UQTR has “the software that allows you to see where the parts of the book come from.”

In the research vice-rectorate, however, the operation has been put into perspective.

“For sifting, it is perhaps a bit strong,” replied Vice-Rector Sébastien Charles.

Also, the file sent to Trunk included the 13 cases of plagiarism analyzed by the UQTR. But to these was added a 14th paragraph, more precisely a paragraph without a footnote and very similar to an excerpt from a website not mentioned by Mr. Turcot in his book.

Also, on March 23, The newspaper received another anonymous submission making a similar case in relation to another website. So it’s a 15Y Possible case of plagiarism.

Witnesses of similar cases? Write me confidentially at antoine.robitaille@quebecormedia.com

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