False Documents & Hoax Manuscripts: Historical Deceptions

We have several forged documents which have bedevilled scholars, power-brokers and political leaders for decades or even centuries. The Donation of Constantine, a forged mediaeval document from the 8th C, had huge consequences for the next two millennia. The forged Protocols of Zion, first published in Russia in 1903, has exacerbated virulent anti-Semitism for over 100 years. The fake 60 volumes of the Hitler Diaries, purchased by Stern Magazine in 1983, were proved to be fakes good enough to fool the renowned historian Hugh Trevor- Roper, an Oxford Don. The mysterious Voynich Manuscript which was (re) discovered in 1912, continues to elude classification from scholars and document experts.


  • Face-to-Face


  • Donation of Constantine 8th C and consequences throughout mediaeval and modern history
  • The Protocols of Zion first published in 1903 in Russia and its impact on anti Semitism from 1903
  • Stern Magazine’s purchase of 60 Volumes of the Hitler Diaries in 1983 which fooled the Oxford historian Hugh Trevor-Roper
  • Survey of other significant forgeries or hoax documents including The Voynich Manuscript (date unknown but it resurfaced in 1912), the Zinoviev Letter 1924 and Vortigern 1796 (Shakespeare’s “lost play”)


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Gain an understanding of the difficulties involved in authenticating false document from any period of history.
  2. Discuss the motivations of the forgers in creating the forgeries.
  3. Discuss the impact of the discovery of the forgeries in the context of their times.
  4. Consider the political, social and economic impact of the forgery over time.

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