Ask a historian of demonology to review a biography of an astrologer. It seemed like a good idea when the invitation arrived, and I happily consented. What could possibly go wrong? The subject seemed interesting.
Historians are good at putting objects in their place. Details about context, manufacture, use, abuse, meaning, significance, decay, and so on are layered so that an object itself becomes a carrier of its moment in history. Putting material back into the fabric of history itself enriches that history.
Last year’s prestigious AMC fictional drama The Terror traced the fate of John Franklin’s crew from the moment the famous expedition in search of the Northwest Passage grinded to a halt in the Arctic ice near King William Island, in 1846, to the disappearance of second-in-command Francis Crozier, years later.
Never has the extraordinarily rich literature on mass atrocity seemed more relevant as ongoing reports from around the world remind us that we live in an age of genocide. This vast repertoire of scholarly work can appear at maximum capacity with countless overarching theoretical frameworks of mass violence.
Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury (1120–70) is one of the iconic figures in British history – a man who most people have not only heard of, but also have an opinion on. Yet, despite the brutality of his murder, such opinions are not always positive. In fact, this medieval archbishop is an unusually divisive figure, and always has been.
Robert Caro’s new book, Working, is a sort of self-help manual for historians. Packed with thought-provoking insights and practical advice, it is sure to delight and inspire scholars, from eager students to consummate professionals, looking for a master class in history.