Whether or not Winston Churchill really did say that “history is written by the victors”, we know instinctively that he had a point.
We don’t have to dig very deep to realise that the idea of “spin” is not so modern after all. Whether it’s the average Roman dissing what went before, the Tudors boosting their dynastic claims or the “Great Men” of the Victorian age, there are a whole host of received wisdoms handed down to us by the unknowing, the unreliable or the downright Machiavellian.
Fortunately, we’re beginning to know better. History today is a science as well as an art, based on rigorous research and field work and more than willing to challenge the assumptions of the past. Even better, that has led to a rich seam of writing from academics, thinkers and novelists who are asking us to stop, think and ask ourselves: “Whose history?” and “Is that really true?”.
We have two great examples at this year’s Monty Lit Fest.
In her book, Kindred, archaeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes challenges the stereotype of Neanderthals as brutish and uncultured. Instead, she reveals them to be clever, curious, inventive and adaptive – and asks us to celebrate them as our closest relatives. Rebecca is also tackling hominin history through the female line in her new book, Matriarcha. It promises to be a brilliant session with a brilliant author; join Rebecca at 7.00pm on Friday 9th June.
If fiction is more your bag, look no further than Annie Garthwaite. Historical fiction that puts women centre stage is having something of a moment, and Annie has made a stunning contribution to the genre with her book, Cecily. It’s a book that asks us to re-think war as women fight it from the viewpoint of Cecily de Neville, a woman at the centre of power during the Wars of the Roses, a time of corruption, ambition, treason and betrayal. And there’ll also be the chance to find out more about Annie’s next book, The King’s Mother, that returns us to Cecily’s world and introduces us to three more brilliant 15th century women. Annie will be with us at 11.00am on Sunday 11th June.
Whose history? Come and meet two Great Women to find out.