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The History Makers: 2,500 Years of Shaping the Past

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An epic exploration of who writes about the past and how the biases of certain storytellers--from Julius Caesar to William Shakespeare to Simon Schama--continue to influence our ideas about history (and about who we are) today There are many stories we can spin about years gone by, but which accounts come to be told, and by whom? A single author can deeply shape our unde An epic exploration of who writes about the past and how the biases of certain storytellers--from Julius Caesar to William Shakespeare to Simon Schama--continue to influence our ideas about history (and about who we are) today There are many stories we can spin about years gone by, but which accounts come to be told, and by whom? A single author can deeply shape our understanding through the prism of his or her own beliefs. In The History Makers, Cohen reveals how professional historians, major novelists, dramatists, journalists, political propagandists, and even the writers of the Bible have and continue to influence the accepted records of human experience. Is there, he asks, even such a thing as "objective" history? And what is it to call someone a historian in the first place? A lively tour guide, Cohen leads a delightful inquiry into the published works and private utterances of our greatest historical thinkers to discover the agendas that informed their views of the world, and which in so many ways have informed ours. From the origins of history writing--when such an idea seemed itself revolutionary--to the practitioners of "Bad History" (those thieves who twist reality to glorify themselves and conceal their own or their country's behavior), Cohen's inquiry takes us all the way up through the digital age and the advent of television. With captivating figures brought to vivid life, from Thucydides and Tacitus to Voltaire and Gibbon, from Ulysses Grant and Winston Churchill to Ken Burns and Mary Beard, The History Makers is an unusually authoritative and supremely entertaining volume. Rich in character, complex truths, and surprising anecdotes, the result is a unique exploration of both the aims and craft of history-making that will lead us to think anew about our past and the stories we tell ourselves about it.


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An epic exploration of who writes about the past and how the biases of certain storytellers--from Julius Caesar to William Shakespeare to Simon Schama--continue to influence our ideas about history (and about who we are) today There are many stories we can spin about years gone by, but which accounts come to be told, and by whom? A single author can deeply shape our unde An epic exploration of who writes about the past and how the biases of certain storytellers--from Julius Caesar to William Shakespeare to Simon Schama--continue to influence our ideas about history (and about who we are) today There are many stories we can spin about years gone by, but which accounts come to be told, and by whom? A single author can deeply shape our understanding through the prism of his or her own beliefs. In The History Makers, Cohen reveals how professional historians, major novelists, dramatists, journalists, political propagandists, and even the writers of the Bible have and continue to influence the accepted records of human experience. Is there, he asks, even such a thing as "objective" history? And what is it to call someone a historian in the first place? A lively tour guide, Cohen leads a delightful inquiry into the published works and private utterances of our greatest historical thinkers to discover the agendas that informed their views of the world, and which in so many ways have informed ours. From the origins of history writing--when such an idea seemed itself revolutionary--to the practitioners of "Bad History" (those thieves who twist reality to glorify themselves and conceal their own or their country's behavior), Cohen's inquiry takes us all the way up through the digital age and the advent of television. With captivating figures brought to vivid life, from Thucydides and Tacitus to Voltaire and Gibbon, from Ulysses Grant and Winston Churchill to Ken Burns and Mary Beard, The History Makers is an unusually authoritative and supremely entertaining volume. Rich in character, complex truths, and surprising anecdotes, the result is a unique exploration of both the aims and craft of history-making that will lead us to think anew about our past and the stories we tell ourselves about it.

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