Constance October 15th, 2006
The TLS has two very interesting essays on the changes rung between academic and ‘popular’ history writing, and why and how — i.e. a bit of a historical overview of the last 50 years of writing history.Â The second essay starts with reference to Our Favorite Marxist Historian, Eric Hobsbawm, who himself was a ‘popular’ historian, though, alas, he’s not one that succeeds at being read aloud — though Vaquero and I did work our way through his entire set of the history of the 20th century this way.
The reason I mention this is that some of the same controversies and changes in perspective for those who write history are also visible to those who write fiction, particularly Science Fiction and historical fiction.Â Â Additionally,Â the second TLS essay on history writing isÂ by Stella Tillyard, among whose works isÂ Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, much read and admired by many of us here at Deep Genre.Â She also refers to others many of us have beenÂ reading for years, such as Antonia Fraser.
Here’s aÂ quote pulled from the first essay:
“The opening article was even more confrontational. It asserted that the first half of the twentieth century was â€œa time when most historians temporarily lost their bearingsâ€, and declared that â€œacademic history, for all its scholarly rigour, had succeeded in explaining remarkably little about the workings of human society or the fluctuations in human affairsâ€. The remedy, it suggested, was not to â€œgrub away in the old empirical traditionâ€ but to forge a closer relationship with the social sciences, especially social anthropology, sociology and social psychology, to develop a more sophisticated conceptual vocabulary and to employ statistical techniques. The future lay with the computer, which would replace the â€œstout bootsâ€ worn by the advanced historians of the previous generation. In the United States the new econometric history was already â€œsweeping all before itâ€.”