This is one of the readings from the Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction course, from Coursera. Historical fiction is difficult genre, it needs to be plausible but that plausibility is often a lie. It needs to be a convincing one! Historical characters may or may not have said what is written, or in such a way, or reacted as they did. History is the story of humanity and thus historical fiction needs to reflect this. People haven’t changed an awful lot in the last few thousand years. Individuals, yes in part, and technologies etc but emotions, and what makes humans human remains the same. Wars are still fought, for much the same reasons, gods are worshiped or rejected for much the same reasons, governments and economies rise and fall, and people love, hate and fear much the same, although from a slightly different perspective.
Reblogging this as it is so interesting.
“Your book reads like a novel,” is a comment that popular historians often hear. When said by a general reader, it is a compliment: an acknowledgement of the fluency of the writing and a compelling story. If a historian uses those same words, however, it is an insult. It means ‘you cannot be trusted on your facts’. Hence the title of this piece is bound to infuriate every reader of this journal, for it implies that historians should tell lies. After all, that is what novelists do, isn’t it? Make it all up if they don’t know the facts?
I ought to explain at the outset that I am a novelist (James Forrester) as well as a historian (Ian Mortimer), and I write history for the mass market as well as scholarly articles. As a novelist, I tell lies. Whoppers. All historical novelists do. In my…
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