The recent upsurge in the popularity of documentaries, historical novels, films and television adaptations of past events and persons has emphasised the fact that there is a public thirst for history that remains largely untapped by the academic profession.
No one would deny that Pompeii, the city destroyed by the forces of nature – as when, in the words of the poet Leopardi, ‘an overripe tomato falls on an anthill’ – has attained the status of an archetype, outpacing even Atlantis (whose story must now be explained to the unfamiliar in terms of the fate of Pompeii).
How should we live? Roman Krznaric, in The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live, tackles a question as old as civilization itself from a position more fundamental than philosophy, religion or psychology offer on their own. This position is historical.
Passing under a tessellated ply-wood portcullis to enter ‘Revel Grove’ and attend the Maryland Renaissance Festival, held in the Baltimore suburb of Crownsville, crowds of eager 21st–century revelers are greeted by none other than a faux Henry VIII, six feet plus in height, twenty stone, fists at his hips, legs akimbo in colossus fashion, and dressed in as authentic Holbein garb as a theater co
History as a modern academic discipline and school subject has everywhere been intimately associated with the emergence of a political consciousness of nationhood.
Officially, the designated revolution that took place in historical theory since the Second World War is that of the so-called ‘linguistic turn’. But as the postmodernist era in historical theory begins to fade, one begins to wonder if the real revolution in post-war historical theory actually consisted of the rise of memory studies.
Biography has always been as something of the black sheep of historical writing; we cannot do without it, yet it always looked down upon, particularly by those in the profession that are committed to more high-flown subjects and methods of analysis. Yet there can be no doubt that John Campbell has made a serious contribution to British political history through his biographical studies.
At a time when billboards have been driven around London urging illegal immigrants to ‘go home’, when photographs of the arrests of those suspected of breaching their visas were being tweeted by the Home Office (with the hashtag #immigrationoffenders), and when 39,000 texts stating ‘go home’ have been sent to suspected overstayers, the publication of Tony Kushner's The Battle of Britishness
The study of war and memory has been popular amongst cultural historians for over two decades, yet scholarly interest in the subject shows no sign of abating. Indeed, as this collection demonstrates, memory remains a fruitful area of research, particularly if approached from a comparative perspective.