This almost five-year-old post has gotten a lot of clicks too. Might as well re-blog it to make it easier for people to find. For what it’s worth, I actually regret my flippant tone (as I admit in one of the comments). I might not agree with Illig if I did know his work better, but the fact is I hardly know it at all. As for the word “crank,” I used it in the sense that Charles Pierce did in his book Idiot America, as a kind of backhanded honorific: “A pioneer gazing at the frontier of his own mind the way the actual pioneers looked out over the prairie….Very often, it was [the American crank] that provided the conflicts by which the consensus changed.”
How could I have written a whole book about conspiracy theories without once encountering Heribert Illig? I just stumbled over a reference to his “phantom time hypothesis” and now I’m finding him everywhere.
A prolific crank in the grand tradition of Ignatius L. Donnelley and Immanuel Velikovsky, Illig has spent many years elaborating and defending his proposition that the years 614-911 CE were invented and inserted into histories ex post facto at the behest of Otto III. The present year is not 2010, but 1713; Charlemagne and Alfred the Great were fictional characters; the Viking raids never happened; etc.
Illig’s foundation for his theory are the presumed inconsistencies between the Gregorian and Julian calendars (which are in fact easily resolved); he criticizes historians’ over-credulous attitude toward written documents and points out inadequacies in dendrochronology and archaeological methods.
None of his books have been translated into English, though amusingly auto-translated reviews…
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