Those who start in the thick of it, I like best of all. The writer who made me want to be an historian was Columbia University professor Garrett Mattingly. In 1959, he published The Defeat of the Spanish Armada, which has the imaginative grip of a novel but is grounded on the bedrock of the archives. It begins with a name the significance of which we, as yet, have absolutely no idea; with an exactly visualised place. Through the repetition of a single word “Nobody,” we hear the tolling of a bell ringing the doom of someone or other.“Mr Beale had not brought the warrant until Sunday evening but by Wednesday morning, before dawn outlines its high windows, the great hall of Fotheringhay was ready. Though the Earl of Shrewsbury had returned only the day before nobody wanted any more delay. Nobody knew what messenger might be riding on the London road. Nobody knew which of the others might not weaken if they wanted another.”What is this? Who is this? Where are we? You want to read on, don’t you? So you do so with the intense excitement of knowing every word is true.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
"Brook your ire!"/toga-speech
At the FT, Simon Schama on what historians think of historical novels (site registration required):