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Macmillan Higher Education Palgrave Higher Education

Presenting History

Past and Present

ISBN 9780230242074
Publication Date December 2011
Formats Hardcover Ebook Paperback 
Publisher Palgrave

Who reads academic histories? Should historians reach out more beyond academia to the general public? Why do Hollywood films, historical novels and television histories prove more successful in presenting the past to a wider audience? What can historians do to improve their effectiveness in reaching and engaging their target audience in a digital age?

The way history is presented to an audience is often taken for granted, even ignored. Presenting History explores the vital role played by presenters in both establishing why history matters in today's world and communicating the past to audiences within and outside academia. Through case studies of leading historians, historical novelists, Hollywood filmmakers and television history presenters, this book looks critically at alternative literary and visual ways of presenting the past as both academic history and popular history.

Historians discussed include Stephen Ambrose, Niall Ferguson, Eric Hobsbawm, Robert A. Rosenstone, Simon Schama, Joan Wallach Scott and A.J.P. Taylor. Chapter topics include Hollywood and history; Michael Bellesiles' controversial history of gun rights in the USA; Philippa Gregory's historical novels; historians and the David Irving trial; and Terry Deary's 'Horrible Histories'.

Raising serious questions about the nature, study and communication of history, Presenting History is an essential text for historians and history students, as well as anyone involved in listening to, reading, or watching presenters of the past.

PETER J. BECK Emeritus Professor of History at Kingston University, UK and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. His publications include Using History, Making British Policy: the Treasury and Foreign Office, 1950-1976 and Scoring for Britain: International Football and International Politics, 1900-1939. He has contributed to a wide range of publications, radio and television programmes in the UK and internationally, including History Today and the BBC History Magazine.

List of Boxes
List of Abbreviations
PART I: PRESENTING HISTORY Why History and Presenters of the Past Matter
Presenting History in Academia
Reaching Out to a Popular Audience
PART II: PRESENTERS OF THE PAST: CASE STUDIES A.J.P. Taylor: the People's 'History Man'
Eric Hobsbawm: the Marxist Historian 
Simon Schama: the Television Historian


A useful survey of the advantages and pitfalls of public history.' - The Public Historian 'We should be grateful to Peter Beck for a nuanced, thoughtful and superbly documented study of public history as currently practised in Britain.' - John Tosh, Rethinking History
'In this intriguing and thought-provoking book, Beck provides an account that shifts our attention away from the academy and directs it instead toward a wider audience. In exploring how they address the needs and desires of the public, he seeks to reconfigure the way in which historians are defined, not as makers, but as presenters of history...a valuable book for anyone wishing to study the nature of history today.' - BBC History Magazine 'Beck's lively and engaging writing style makes this thought-provoking book a pleasure to read. Those seriously interested in historical fiction and how knowledge of the past is transmitted in the modern world will find it engrossing.' - Historical Novels Review 'I very much enjoyed reading the chapter on A.J.P. Taylor. Lucid and shrewd, skilfully constructed. This book is joining my MA reading list immediately.' - Professor Chris Wrigley, University of Nottingham, UK
'Professor Beck has written a scholarly and accessible study of the many ways that people write and enjoy history. In a fair and thoughtful way he considers the very many ways that history informs popular culture and how writers deploy it for their own work. For anyone who has ever wondered how much history there 'should' be in a historical novel - Professor Beck provides a number of answers. At a time when history-based films plays and novels are dominating the culture it is an interesting examination of why we love history, and how we use it. - Philippa Gregory, Author 'Peter Beck's well-researched, well-written and hugely engaging book has already become the standard work on this important subject. He is not afraid of making his well-informed views clear, and his book is all the better for it.' - Andrew Roberts, Author, The Storm of War'Compared to the development of historiography, the problem of the public presentation of history has been rather neglected. Peter J. Beck's Presenting History is therefore in some sense a pioneer work, all the more as it combines studies of presentation by academics (and the problems that may arise) and a consideration of the wider penetration of historical information into the public domain in print and on screen. The book is remarkably well informed, at least to the end of 2011. It is a well planned and lucidly written book which should certainly be read with profit by those who wish to understand our century.' - Professor Eric Hobsbawm, Birkbeck, University of London, UK
'The study looks at something that historians are only now beginning to approach and attempt to understand. It is therefore a useful starting point for further examination into the varied ways of presenting history, a challenge to historians to write thoroughly-researched academic texts in an approachable and readable manner.' - Reviews in History
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