Tuesday, April 13, 2010

History goes pop

There was a time—all of the 19th century—when the educated read history books and the slightly less educated read historical novels. This trend petered out sometime around the mid-20th century, under the impact of decolonization (which exposed much of “history” as Eurocentric), the rise and defeat of fascism (which exposed some of “history” as racist) and later, feminism and postmodernism (which, in different ways, revealed “history” to be often “his story”).

Lately, however, there has been a revival—both of popular histories (as in the “Mughal” books by William Dalrymple) and of historical fiction (as in Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace or Hilary Mantel’s Booker-winner from last year, Wolf Hall).

Jonathan Phillips’ Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades and Ira Berlin’s The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations are sterling examples of good history books written, once again, for a large readership and not just for scholars.

Full report here Mint

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