Step back in time: bringing history to life on the page

Wednesday 1 May 2019

History is just a story? Well it depends who is writing it. Your readers could be drawn or maybe they’ll just yawn.

So to help develop your communication skills we have invited 2018 Costa book award winner Bart Van Es and the feminist and historian, Sarah Knott, to talk about new approaches to writing history in a lecture and panel discussion.

They will be joined by Barbara Taylor, (Queen Mary, University of London) for this special Institute of Historical Research (IHR) and Raphael Samuel History Centre event, ‘New approaches to writing history’, at the Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck College, London, on 9 May (6.30–8pm).

History is open to ever-greater experimentation 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. Our experts will explore these developments.

Bart Van Es is professor of English literature at the University of Oxford and his latest book, The Cut Out Girl: A Story of War and Family, Lost and Found, won the 2018 Costa Book award. 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 17th to late 20th 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.

The post-lecture conversation will be led by Barbara Taylor (QMUL) who 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).

A drinks reception will follow the lecture, and there will be the opportunity to speak to the authors and purchase the books.

For further information, please contact the IHR Events Office, ihr.events@sas.ac.uk / 020 7862 8740