Plot Like a Poet

There is a collateral danger to the commitment that many historians share to telling the truth about the past: is there only one story to tell? The historians’ options might at first might seem limited, especially when compared to the fiction writer. How would a historian follow James Scott Bell’s advice for planning? To find […]

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Audience in Mind

All falsities in writing – and the consequent dry-rot that spreads into the whole fabric – come from the notion that there is a stylistic ideal which exists in the abstract, like a special language, to which all [writers] might attain.[1] All writing is done for specific audiences. A research article in a specialist historical […]

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A friend once told me that the first morning after they had moved to a new neighbourhood, their dog found half a hotdog lying on the lawn of a neighbour’s house. Many years later, the dog was still in the habit, every morning, of making the detour from their walking route to check for hotdogs. […]

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I sometimes wonder what outsiders think archival research is like. The message blasting from mass culture is not reassuring. From the ‘archaeologist’ Indiana Jones to Dan Brown’s ‘symbologist’ Robert Langdon, audiences are told that archive work is exciting, and dangerous, that it’s ok to lie and steal to get the information, and that men always […]

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