Historically Thinking

Historically Thinking

Episode 260: The Making of History

April 18, 2022

Richard Cohen begins his new book Making History: The Storytellers Who Shaped the Past with two particularly appropriate epigrams. First, from the historian E.H. Carr: “Before you study history, study the historian.” Second, the historical novelist Hilary Mantel: “Beneath every history, there is another history—there is, at least, the life of the historian.” 
The life of historians is the subject of Cohen’s book, and he ranges from Herodotus and Thucydides in the Very Long Ago, to Ibram X. Kendi and the 1619 Project of Just Yesterday. Since this is a book about how historians make make history, it is therefore a book about how historians see the past, and think about it.  

Richard Cohen is the author of By the Sword,Chasing the Sun, and How to Write Like Tolstoy. The former publishing director of two leading London publishing houses, he has edited numerous prize-winning and bestselling books, and written for most UK quality newspapers. He is a Fellowof the Royal Society of Literature.


For Further Investigation

The podcast now has several conversations devoted to the subject of "Historians and Their Histories". To mention two historians of Rome who were also men of action, here's one with Adrian Goldsworthy on Julius Caesar, and another with Steele Brand on Polybius, onetime soldier, Greek, and historian of the Roman Republic.
A site devoted to Shakespeare and history, which is suitably named shakespeareandhistory.com
Sir Walter Scott's Abbotsford: the house that historical novels built
David Irving, mentioned in the podcast conversation, became notorious as Holocaust denier. In turn denying this charge, he sued historian Deborah Lipstadt for libel, the stakes of which were "not only Irving's contention that his reputation and livelihood had been harmed, but also a bitter argument about the nature of historical evidence and its interpretation." You can read more about the result of the trial in a contemporary source here.