Here is something I hope will get your grey cells going. Some time ago, a friend of mine had a quote from her Amazon.com review of a book published on the book itself. The book was one of the Neophyte Warrior series by Richard Patton, of which I have read not one sentence. But it really doesn’t matter which book or author it was, rather the point my friend was making. I have extracted the relevant portion:-
“….the author…is not a historian by trade. Perhaps this is why his interest…is so easily—and vividly—brought to life…”
Do you agree with this? How many of today’s popular historians can light up their subject with a compelling glow? And how many can kill it stone dead on the first page? And what about the other, more traditional, historians, who are so steeped in their subject and the minutiae of every detail that wading through it all is hard labour that will only get you to the nitty-gritty if you can stay the course? I am not referring to ficton writers, who are, by definition, concerned with fiction, and if it is historical fiction, they will weave their story around the facts. No, I am talking about non-fiction.
Might it be that the amateur enthusiast can actually convey everything to a reader with more verve and excitement than many who have all the qualifications?
I know that “amateur enthusiast” can equal “a bit nutty”, and that “enthusiasm” can equal “fanatical obsession”, especially in this day of self-publication, but the same descriptions can apply to certain fully qualified historians with letters after their names. I am not referring to extremists of any kind whatsoever.
Opinions please? And which present historian or amateur (non-fiction) enthusiast is your favourite? Mine is Ian Mortimer, because he is a historian who crosses the divide sublimely, and brings his subject to wonderful life. In my opinion, anyway. Over to you…