Alan Morris Strauss-Schom (born 9 May 1937[a] in Sterling, Illinois), known as Alan Schom[b] and occasionally Alan Strauss-Schom is an American historian and biographer. Specialising in French History, his work on Napoleon saw him receive Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominations.
Schom is originally from Illinois but later moved to California. His father Irving (died 1983) was an active freemason, part of Ionic Composite Lodge No. 520 in Carthay, Los Angeles. He had one sister, Faith Sharon Scham, who died in 2002.
He attended Beverly Hills High School and received his A.B. in French/ European History from University of California, Berkeley in 1965. He continued his education at Durham University, where he was a member of the Hatfield College Middle Common Room and completed his PhD on the French soldier and administrator Hubert Lyautey, entitled A study of Lyautey's administration of Morocco, in relation to indigenous and Islamic institutions, in 1968.[c]
Schom taught French and Modern European History at Southern Connecticut State University and at the University of California, Riverside. He served as the President and Founder of the French Colonial Historical Society (1974–76), and founded its research journal, French Colonial Studies. In 1977 he left academia to become a full-time writer and speaker.
In 1997 Schom prepared the first of two reports for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles on the policies of the Swiss Government toward Jewish refugees during World War II that argued Switzerland furthered the goals of neighbouring Nazi Germany despite a professed stance of neutrality. The reports – actually prepared by Schom and several scholars, including Marvin Hier, but authored by Schom only – were criticised by a Swiss diplomat in the United States, Thomas G. Borer, who accused Schom of 'shoddy scholarship' in a letter sent to the Los Angeles Times shortly after release of the second report in June 1998. In Switzerland itself reaction was also highly negative, with President Flavio Cotti denouncing the conclusions of the reports.
Amid the controversy, Simon Wiesenthal expressed displeasure at the organisation bearing his name for issuing the first report and disputed Schom's qualifications and conclusions. He also called on the center to distance itself from Schom and not use him for research again. Schom, for his part, defended the contents of the reports when challenged by reporters at an emotionally-charged press conference in New York, as did Hier, who stated that anti-semitism was an 'official state policy' in Switzerland.
Schom has been highly critical of Napoleon. His 1997 single volume biography, Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life, argued the subjects military reputation is overrated and instead identifies his genius as political, with Napoleon's mastery of political spin pinpointed as a major factor in his continued advancement. The work saw Schom accused in some quarters of failing to prevent an objective view of Napoleon's career, though he stood by the book and suggested the views of many non-academic defenders of Napoleon (giving the International Napoleonic Society as an example) were bordering on hero worship. Schom has also highlighted what he regards as the malign influence of the Napoleonic Code and its rejection of the presumption of innocence.
As Alan Scham
- Lyautey in Morocco, Protectorate Administration 1912-1925 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970)
As Alan Schom
- Emil Zola, A Biography (New York: Henry Holt, 1987)
- Trafalgar, Countdown to Battle, 1803-1805 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990 and London, Penguin Books)
- One Hundred Days, Napoleon's Road to Waterloo (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993 and London: Penguin Books)
- Napoleon Bonaparte, A Biography (New York: Harper Collins, 1997)
- The Eagle and the Rising Sun—The Japanese-American War, 1941-1943 (NY: WW Norton, 2005)
As Alan Strauss-Schom
- The Shadow Emperor: A Biography of Napoleon III (US edition: St. Martin's Press, 2018 / UK edition: Amberley, 2018)
- Although Schom claims a birth date of 9 May 1941 on his personal website, the 1940 Census (taken 1 April 1940) lists Alan Scham of Sterling, Illinois as already being at least 2 years old
- In earlier life he was known by the name Alan Myron Scham
- Schom claims a date of 1969 on his personal website. Durham's online depository records the date of submission as being 1967, while the 1968 Durham University Gazette (which listed all degree awards for a given year) indicates his PhD was awarded sometime that year
- "Alan Scham in the 1940 Census". Ancestry.com. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
- "Alan Strauss-Schom". Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
- "Funeral Announcements". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, CA. 12 January 1983. p. 34.
- "Obituaries/Funeral Announcements". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, CA. 9 November 2002. p. 26.
- "Personal and Career". Alan Strauss Schom, PhD. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
- "Higher Degrees". Durham University Gazette. 16 (1): 15. 31 December 1968. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
- "Wiesenthal report says Swiss were pro-German during war". Billings Gazette. Knight Ridder News Service. 11 June 1998. p. 9.
- Borer, Thomas G. (17 June 1998). "Distortion, Guilt by Association". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
- Billings Gazette, p. 9
- "News Brief". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 15 June 1998. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
- JTA, 15 June 1998
- Billings Gazette, p. 9
- McDonald, R. T. (1998). "Schom, Alan. Napoleon Bonaparte. New York: Harper Collins, 1997". Journal of Conflict Studies. 18 (2). Retrieved 15 March 2020.
- Carlini, Charles (24 July 2013). "No Napoleon Complex: Alan Schom's Critical View of the French Emperor". Simply Charly. Retrieved 15 March 2020.