Famed professor and historian blamed for plagiarism

The star historian Laurent Turcot was pinned down by his university for plagiarism and called to order last fall, but escaped sanctions.

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


The star historian (centre) on the show Salut Bonjour, 2018.

With kind approval

The star historian (centre) on the show Salut Bonjour, 2018.

Among other things, he produced a podcast for the state society entitled Fan d’histoire, in which he discussed with personalities such as Guylaine Tremblay and Guy A. Lepage. On YouTube he hosts a channel called History will tell us with more than 375,000 subscribers.


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

With kind approval

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


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

screenshot

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

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

The complaint concerned his book Sport and leisure: a history from the beginning to the present day, published in 2016 by Gallimard Editions.


Laurent Tucot

He criticizes the editor

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

Before him, Mr. Turcot’s defense was that his book was created from course notes containing sentences copied elsewhere without reference.

He also claimed that in back-and-forth with the editor, he or she may have inadvertently removed footnote references, quotation marks, and references while attempting to “airbrush” the text.

The judgment of the UQTR committee in October was that a “violation of responsible research behavior” had actually occurred.

In an “official letter” to Mr Turcot sent to the protocol from UQTR, Vice Rector for Research Sébastien Charles writes: “Some quotations in your book are not presented as such […], which constitutes plagiarism. »

“Extremely serious”

However, “in the light of all the facts”, it was decided that Mr Turcot would not be sanctioned. There was “no intentional and malicious use” of plagiarism, the committee judged in a report on which the protocol had access (but a passage of it has been redacted).

In conversation with The newspaperMr Charles claims that the plagiarism allegations are “extremely serious” and that the professor has shown a “lack of rigor in the creation and editing of the book”.

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

Accompanied by The newspaper Laurent Turcot twice admitted that “some mistakes were made”, but insists: All this was done without “malicious intent”.

The university urged Mr Turcot to contact his publisher “to agree on corrective action”. Gallimard then confirmed to us that corrections would be made in a new edition.

“Use all or part of someone else’s text, passing it off as your own or without acknowledging the source,” according to the regulations of the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières.

THE RESULTS

FOR STUDENTS

  • “Course failed
  • “The suspension of the program for one or more sessions for a maximum duration not exceeding 24 months
  • “Temporary or permanent expulsion from the University of Québec in Trois-Rivières,” the institution said.

FOR TEACHERS

  • penalties vary. In 2012, the UQAM recommended the dismissal of Professor Robert Robillard from the accounting department. An outside expert found that he had plagiarized. In 2014, an arbitrator ruled that a six-month suspension was sufficient, which the Supreme Court upheld the following year.

In Turcot’s book

“Place par excellence for conviviality in all walks of life, the Parisian café of the 19th centuryand The twentieth century also finds a place of choice in French literature: from the noblest to the humblest, none escaped careful description of the spirit that animated them. A place to see and be seen, a spectacle in itself, a theater of sorts. »

original extract

“Place par excellence for conviviality in all walks of life, the Parisian café of the 19th centuryand The twentieth century has found a place of choice in French literature: from the noblest to the humblest, none has escaped the careful description of the spirit that animated them. Place where you see and where you are seen, spectacle in itself, it’s a kind of theatre [sic]. »

SOURCE: Laurent Portes, “Cafés, bistros, caboulots…”, 2013, digital article on the BNF’s Gallica website

In Turcot’s book

“The golden age of balls is mid-century and the establishments that host them are not just places for socialising; They are also suitable for physical relaxation, even for sports performance. Evidenced by the unleashed “gallops”, the “polka” or the “French cancan”, the “eccentric” flights of famous dancers such as Grille d’Égout or Valentin le Désossé. Top-class dance halls such as the Mabille Ball, the Closerie des Lilas, the Moulin Rouge or the Moulin de la Galette are indispensable. »

original extract

“The golden age of ball is mid-century […] a place of conviviality; it is also suitable for physical relaxation and even for sports performance. Evidenced by the unleashed “gallops”, the “polka” or the “French cancan”, the “eccentric” flights of famous dancers such as Grille d’Égout or Valentin le Désossé. […] Top-class dance halls such as the Mabille Ball, the Closerie des Lilas, the Moulin Rouge or the Moulin de la Galette are indispensable. »

SOURCE: Paul Gerbod, “On Parisian Leisure in the 19th Century”), French Ethnology, Vol. 23, No. 4, 1993, p. 616

In Turcot’s book

“Of about 230 charioteers and agitators listed, there is only one freeborn coachman. »

“In a twenty-four year career he has won no fewer than 4257 races. »

original extract

“Of about 230 charioteers and agitators listed, there is only one freeborn coachman. »

“In a 24-year career, he took part in 4257 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

He pleads for mistakes “in good faith”

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

In a second appeal, the scientist acknowledged that he and others may have made “mistakes.”

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

He insists that he has never wanted to “appropriate” anyone else’s work.

He believes the complaint stems from a vendetta by a “colleague” who “harassed” him for seven years.

“He attacked me physically and verbally! ‘ he starts.

According to him, the omission of quotation marks and references in the incriminated passages is explained in most cases.

These are “course notes” turned into a “synthesis book,” “general public,” he points out.

Also, halfway through the history of sport and leisure course, he decided to compile his notes into a book. From then on he would have been “more precise” in what he wrote down.

attorney letter

In several of the cases raised, Mr. Turcot believes the editor is responsible for the problem since the quotation marks were actually present in the original version of the manuscript, he swears. He didn’t send this to the protocol as we requested.

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

  • Regarding three passages copied from a website, Mr. Turcot claims that they are in fact taken from previously published books, books he has consulted and which he cites elsewhere in his work. But unfortunately those three notes would have disappeared in the editing process, he argues.
  • Seven other passages, copied and used without quotation marks, are from works cited elsewhere sport and freetime, he argued. Mr Turcot sees this as evidence that he has not attempted to hide his sources.
  • According to our analysis, Turcot could not provide a clear explanation for the other three extracts.

When he found out that charges had been filed against him, he acted quickly, says the historian. In August he published an expanded bibliography with the 13 missing references on a website (laurentturcot.ca). “Corrected” in his eyes.

In the eyes of the editor responsible for Laurent Turcot’s book, the mistakes that the university accuses the professor of are just “mistakes”.

“All of this is disproportionate to the mistake made,” said Sophie Kucoyanis, head of Folio History collections at Gallimard, when contacted in Paris.

In his eyes, it is also a “common guilt”.

“The author, believing he was doing the right thing, has deleted quotation marks and sources that weigh on the subject, and the publisher did not recognize this type of abbreviation. So there is complicity because the author shouldn’t have done that. And the publisher should have seen it. »

Additionally, “none of the authors or publishers” of the plagiarized works have raised any “complaints about this book,” she said.

Laurent Turcot says the university combed his book and found no further cases of plagiarism.

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

He specified that the UQTR has “the software that makes it possible to see where the parts of the book come from”.

However, the operation has been put into perspective by the Vice Rectorate for Research.

“Maybe it’s a bit strong for the seven,” said vice-rector Sébastien Charles.

Also, the file will be sent to protocol included the 13 cases of plagiarism analyzed by UQTR. But to these a 14th has been added, more precisely an unfootnoted paragraph and very similar to the excerpt from a website which Mr Turcot did not mention in his book.

Also on 23.03. The newspaper received another anonymous submission uncovering a similar case related to another website. So it’s a 15and possible case of plagiarism.

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

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