Making History

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781474615778

Price: £25

ON SALE: 17th March 2022

Genre: Humanities / History

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MAKING HISTORY is an epic exploration of who writes about the past and how the biases of certain storytellers – whether Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare or Simon Schama – continue to influence our ideas about history (and about who we are) today.

In this authoritative and entertaining book, Richard Cohen reveals how professional historians and other equally significant witnesses (such as the writers of the Bible, major novelists, dramatists, journalists and political propagandists) influence what become the accepted records of human experience. Is there, he asks, even such a thing as ‘objective’ history? The depth of Cohen’s inquiry and the delight he takes in his subjects includes the practitioners of what he calls ‘Bad History,’ those thieves of history who twist reality to glorify themselves and conceal their or their country’s behaviour.

Cohen investigates the published works and private utterances of our greatest historical thinkers to discover the agendas that informed their views of the world, and which in so many ways have informed ours. From the origins of history-writing, when such an idea seemed itself revolutionary, through to television and the digital age, MAKING HISTORY abounds in captivating figures brought to vivid life, from Thucydides and Tacitus to Voltaire and Gibbon, from Winston Churchill to Mary Beard. Rich in character, complex truths and surprising anecdotes, the result is a unique exploration of both the aims and craft of history-making. It will lead us to think anew about our past and ourselves.

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Reviews

What a brilliant achievement! Like all Richard Cohen's writing, Making History opens a dialogue with the reader - grave and witty, suave yet pointed - erudite yet engaging and full of energy. It has huge scope, but never forfeits the telling detail. It is scholarly, lively, quotable, up-to-date and fun
HILARY MANTEL
With meticulous research and riveting anecdotes, Richard Cohen has peeled back the hidden history behind those who record our past. He brilliantly shows how an extraordinary gallery of characters - from prodigies to charlatans, from ideologues to heroes - has exposed, shaped and, at times, bent and even covered up the facts. In the process, Cohen has achieved what only the finest historians can: he has scrupulously and engagingly made history
DAVID GRANN, author of Killers of the Flower Moon and The Lost City of Z
What a grand, illuminating and fun book! Richard Cohen takes us on a learned tour through the cacophony of history and of the characters who've told the stories that shape us. To understand who we are, we have to understand who we've been - and, as Cohen amply demonstrates, who's framed those understandings
JON MEACHAM, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House and Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Richard Cohen has written an utterly engaging love letter to History's hidden story tellers. Provocative, funny but scrupulously fair, Making History is a timely reminder that history doesn't write itself
AMANDA FOREMAN
A fascinating and finely wrought history of history
PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY, starred review
[A] love song to the profession of history . . . extremely effective. Cohen's range is admirably broad . . . insightful, thought-provoking and thoroughly researched
LIBRARY JOURNAL
A huge, fizzing omnium gatherum of a book . . . marvellous
Noel Malcolm, DAILY TELEGRAPH
This absorbing survey begins with the early historians of the classical world and continues through to the modern era
FINANCIAL TIMES
[A] magisterial and wide-ranging examination of the way that historians and other significant witnesses distort through their own prejudices what have become records of human experience
COUNTRY LIFE
Insightful and entertaining . . . there are so many things to like about this book: its breezy tone, its author's Herodotus-like curiosity and delight in anecdote, his readiness to recognise the vices as well as the virtues of historians, and the splendid in-text illustrations . . . a gargantuan achievement
THE CRITIC
An enthralling investigation into the ways in which the background of historians affected and affects the way they present the past. Using autobiographies, letters and the comments of contemporaries, Cohen brings to life legendary figures. Black history and "herstory", novelists and journalists, Bible stories and military campaigns, Putin's revision of Russian history: all pass under his consistently entertaining scrutiny . . . [a] historical Tower of Babel
THE TIMES
Superb . . . Highly entertaining . . . Witty, wise and elegant, this tremendous book deserves to become a classic of history itself
THE SPECTATOR
Supremely entertaining . . . epic . . . whatever Cohen writes about he writes about with brio
THE NEW YORKER