I could multiply the dispiriting litany of errors, but it is more interesting to try to understand what drives these writers to parade their inadequacies in the marketplace. It is tempting to blame postmodernism, which has blurred the difference between drivel and truth; or the popularity of television-history, where no standards of veracity or scholarship apply; or the temptations aroused by vulgar sensationalists, who have made fortunes by proclaiming the peripeties of the Holy Grail and "proving" that the medieval Chinese discovered Rhode Island. I suspect, however, that the very virtues of my discipline are responsible for the vices of the writers who abuse it. Because history is the people's discipline, books about it are relatively salable—invitingly so, to indolent cupidity. History's accessibility to non-specialists makes it seem dangerously, delusively easy.
I certainly don't think that history is easy--I think it is hard to write about the past because I have to balance the details of the facts with their relevance and interpretation. And all the while, I try to make it interesting and let the story shine through so it's not boring. At the same, I don't want to sensationalize or over-interpret. "Indolent cupidity"--if I desired wealth from writing, I certainly have failed.
"Parade their inadequacies": that phrase is scary to any writer who chooses to publish on a blog, in a magazine, or a book on the shelf (and in the e-reader device). It takes a mixture of chutzpah and humility to write and publish. Fortunately for me, I found myself standing on the shoulders of giants like Eamon Duffy, Blessed John Henry Newman, Father John Lingard and even Alister McGrath, who helped me confirm my interpretation of the English Reformation. When I read his book on the Protestant Reformation, Christianity's Dangerous Idea, I was exceptionally pleased to see that he confirmed my views about Henry VIII's political reformation, the legislative compromise of the Elizabethan religiouis settlement, and even some of my thoughts on the continuing Stuart and Puritan manipulation of religion in the established church. I don't think that I have written drivel.
|Brandy as a puppy|