Uplifting Quotes for the Uninspired Historian #17

I’ve been thinking recently about being a reader of history, as distinct from a writer.  I like the ideas in the quote below, but I must admit to wishing that I could rewrite it with different use of punctuation. But I suspect that I am being a picky historical reader, instead of a critical one.

It goes without saying that creative historical writing requires creative historical writers, historians willing and able to take their writing seriously as writing, to see the form of their work as the product of a series of choices, a creative problem they have to solve, a problem at least as open-ended as the problem of coming up with a good subject, the right questions, suitable sources, satisfying answers, interpretations, conclusions and new questions.

Less talked about is another requirement: at every step along the way, creative historical writers will need creative historical readers, readers able and willing to read their history and criticize it as writing.  Those readers will not stop trying to figure out if the author has asked a good question, reckoned with all the appropriate literature, identified sources that will actually allow them to answer their questions, and all the rest.  It simply means that they will also try to determine whether the author has chosen the form, the structure, the voice or voices, the point(s) of view, the language, the length, the controlling metaphors and so much more- that do the subject, the questions, the interpretation or story the   most justice.     James Goodman ‘Editorial’

Rethinking History, Vol 16, No 1 March 2012 p. 1-2.

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3 responses to “Uplifting Quotes for the Uninspired Historian #17

  1. Phew … I agree that the point about paying attention to writing is a great one but boy, perhaps the person writing this could have paid attention to their writing (as picky you imply!). A couple of short sentences in there wouldn’t go astray methinks.

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