Historians and their publics: a consideration of Ludmilla Jordanova
In 1841, having unsuccessfully contested the Professorship of Natural History at University College London, W. S. Farquharson wrote to the College authorities as follows:
'It is not necessary to be dull to write about history', Ged Martin remarks (p. 8). One suspects that many historians would add, 'but it helps'. This book is a wonderful antidote to that excessive seriousness. The style is crisp, paradox and aphorism abound – 'historians love paradoxes', Martin says (p.
Charles Darwin died in April 1882 at which time William Bateson and Walter Weldon were still Cambridge undergraduates and, indeed, still friends. In later years their bitter feud over the mechanisms of inheritance, evolution, and, in particular, the status of 'Natural Selection', was to colour Darwinian studies throughout the 1890s and well beyond.
Ernest Gellner, who died on 5 November 1995, was one of the great polymaths of the century. Many of his twenty books were concerned with philosophy, sociology and anthropology. Yet at the core of his work was an historical question.
The Birth of Modern Belief is seriously good. It is erudite, insightful, and cogent; but, above all, it enables us to think hard about the relationship between our past and our present.
Francis Bacon’s unfinished utopian novel The New Atlantis is often invoked in scholarship about early modern scientific projects.
The sub-branch of history that is known by the ambiguous (and frightening to undergraduates, cats, and many mainstream academics) name “historiography” seems to be undergoing a Renaissance at the moment.