Jointly hosted by the IHR and the Raphael Samuel History Centre.
Thursday 9th May 2019, 6.30 – 8.00pm
Clore Lecture Theatre, Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck College, London WC1E 7JL
Reception to follow.
Join Costa Book winner, Bart Van Es, and the feminist and historian, Sarah Knott, to discuss new approaches to writing history.
Once characterized by its authorial distance and dispassion, history is open to ever-greater experiment as a written form. The rise of first-person narration, the merging of history with memoir, the appeal of ‘non-fiction fiction’, and the historian’s place as agent of research, or even subject within the past, are all reshaping how academic history is being written, read and enjoyed.
In this event we’ll discuss the reasons for, and outcomes of, this greater fluidity of form. How do we explain a new readiness to experiment; what does a fusing of genres mean for historical values; can form shape method and understanding of the past; and where next for experimental history writing? Commenting on these topics are three highly successful practitioners of innovative history.
Bart Van Es is professor of English Literature at Oxford University. His latest book, The Cut Out Girl: A Story of War and Family, Lost and Found (Penguin), won the 2018 Costa Book award earlier this year. Part memoir of friendship, part family history, The Cut Out Girl opens into a detailed study of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands and the networks that supported the hiding of Jewish children. To the Evening Standard this is ‘a masterpiece of history and memoir’.
Sarah Knott is associate professor in history at Indiana University and the author of Mother. An Unconventional History, published by Penguin in March 2019. The study of mothering from the seventeenth to the late twentieth century, Mother is an ‘unconventional history’ in its use of first-person as the means to undertake historical research, and in its piecing together of past mothering from anecdotal fragments born of interruptions.
They’re joined by Barbara Taylor (QMUL) who will lead the conversation with Bart and Sarah. Barbara is professor of humanities at Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of The Last Asylum. A Memoir of Madness in our Times (Penguin, 2014).