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What isn't history?: Selected articles and speeches on writing history and historical fiction

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Is history absolute? Is writing about the past an exact science, or is it more of a nebulous discipline open to different interpretations and points of view? These are important questions that noted historian Ian Mortimer says all serious writers of history must reflect on. This new collection explores those ideas, providing an analysis on how the immensity of chronicling Is history absolute? Is writing about the past an exact science, or is it more of a nebulous discipline open to different interpretations and points of view? These are important questions that noted historian Ian Mortimer says all serious writers of history must reflect on. This new collection explores those ideas, providing an analysis on how the immensity of chronicling the past lends itself to a wide variety of audiences and contexts. Mortimer teaches that the purpose of history goes beyond simply relaying events of yesterday—it is about finding the meaning and conveying it to living and future generations. It is up to the audience to determine what history means to them, and it is up to the historian—or historical fiction writer—to determine what is and what isn’t history. What Isn’t History? collects together for the first time the selected articles and speeches on writing history and historical fiction from Ian Mortimer, the bestselling author of The Time Travelers Guide to Medieval England and the Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England.


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Is history absolute? Is writing about the past an exact science, or is it more of a nebulous discipline open to different interpretations and points of view? These are important questions that noted historian Ian Mortimer says all serious writers of history must reflect on. This new collection explores those ideas, providing an analysis on how the immensity of chronicling Is history absolute? Is writing about the past an exact science, or is it more of a nebulous discipline open to different interpretations and points of view? These are important questions that noted historian Ian Mortimer says all serious writers of history must reflect on. This new collection explores those ideas, providing an analysis on how the immensity of chronicling the past lends itself to a wide variety of audiences and contexts. Mortimer teaches that the purpose of history goes beyond simply relaying events of yesterday—it is about finding the meaning and conveying it to living and future generations. It is up to the audience to determine what history means to them, and it is up to the historian—or historical fiction writer—to determine what is and what isn’t history. What Isn’t History? collects together for the first time the selected articles and speeches on writing history and historical fiction from Ian Mortimer, the bestselling author of The Time Travelers Guide to Medieval England and the Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England.

34 review for What isn't history?: Selected articles and speeches on writing history and historical fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mike Kanner

    First, to tell you where I sit. On the one hand, I am an academic in a sister social science (political science) who uses qualitative data, i.e., historical case studies, to prove and demonstrate theories. On the other hand, I write and publish historical fiction. So, like the author, I am on both sides of the fence. And this book represents the author's position in two worlds. The first half of the book consists of articles and talks dealing with the science of history. I would leave this to tho First, to tell you where I sit. On the one hand, I am an academic in a sister social science (political science) who uses qualitative data, i.e., historical case studies, to prove and demonstrate theories. On the other hand, I write and publish historical fiction. So, like the author, I am on both sides of the fence. And this book represents the author's position in two worlds. The first half of the book consists of articles and talks dealing with the science of history. I would leave this to those interested in the academic field. They are not unreadable, but they are focused on the kind of epistemological issues that are part of every first semester of graduate school. Mortimer mainly goes after the chaos caused by the postmodernist tradition in social sciences (with which I agree). The second half appeals to the art of history (as the author refers to it). It is what it takes to make history real to a modern reader and the problems associated with that endeavor. This section is well worth reading for anyone thinking of writing historical fiction and anyone that enjoys it. He explains why so many great novels and characters are totally out of tune with the periods in which they are set and that it is necessary not to turn off modern readers. As an example, he says that most modern women (a large part of the audience for historical fiction) would not stand the level of domestic violence that was acceptable until the last 150 years. There are many well-crafted essays, but one of my favorite lines that I shared with a colleague in our history department is this, which is an excellent way to end this review. "History is like sex— you must discover how wonderful it is for yourself; you shouldn't be forced to undergo it against your will; and it is shallow and meaningless when it is second-rate."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    An e-book only, subject sounded interesting, and on sale at kindle - plus a short read at @160 pp. This is a collection of pieces by Mortimer - everything from blog postings to notes from talks to articles. His area of expertise is Medieval England, and is the author of numerous histories, bios and some historical fiction. The same points are often made piece after piece after piece - but often they are good points. He is an advocate for readable, and interesting, history books. That H/history i An e-book only, subject sounded interesting, and on sale at kindle - plus a short read at @160 pp. This is a collection of pieces by Mortimer - everything from blog postings to notes from talks to articles. His area of expertise is Medieval England, and is the author of numerous histories, bios and some historical fiction. The same points are often made piece after piece after piece - but often they are good points. He is an advocate for readable, and interesting, history books. That H/history is not just the area for academia - but still insisting on deep research (as he points out, his volumes are *heavily* annotated). As he says, he'd rather have 30,000 read his books, than 300. He has some issue with postmodern historians, but agrees with them that historical facts/writings are not objective. So, battle scenes should be dramatic, or it is OK to write sympathetically about the death of a historical figure. His original background is in English Lit and poetry - and he shares some of his favorite authors, and how they have influenced his writing. If I have one issue, it is that he seldom gives concrete examples of "bad" historical writing (for both nonfiction and fiction). He does give some examples. To some extent he presents this as a continuation of Carr's "What Is History" and Jenkins' "Re-Thinking History", yet it is a (self-published?) ebook that is a collection of previous writings, not a single themed text written to the point. While I enjoyed dipping into this collection now and again, and am glad I read it, I doubt if I will be reading any of his other works. Part of that is just that his area of expertise does not much interest me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Mapes

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aliya Kadyrova

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rob Bignell

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ann

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  8. 5 out of 5

    Georgina Koutrouditsou

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katelyn Clays

  10. 4 out of 5

    O. Poole

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elina

  13. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

  14. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  15. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alison

  17. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andreli Zanirato

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gürsoy Düzenli

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erin Boehm

  22. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paula

  24. 4 out of 5

    Luke Sellers

  25. 4 out of 5

    Natália Mavignier

  26. 4 out of 5

    Мануэль

  27. 4 out of 5

    Fabulitas

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alina

  29. 4 out of 5

    Aleksandra

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Lenker

  31. 5 out of 5

    Dakota

  32. 4 out of 5

    Christen

  33. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

  34. 5 out of 5

    Shari

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