Sunday, August 12, 2012

When History becomes Fiction

There has been news about recalling from shelves and halting publishing of The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths you've always Believed About Thomas Jefferson due to inaccuracies and misinterpretations made by the author.  You can read the full story here.

There are numerous reasons why, if not careful, historians or writers can turn history into fiction.  History is such a gigantic subject.  It is a given that historians tend to be biased on their subject or topic based on their beliefs and prejudices.

But when someone writes history by interpreting it to suit their bias they are then writing, well, fiction.

Also, history has countless points-of-view and the historian is limited to their chosen few to tell the story.  Therefore, it is important to have reliable sources regarding their chosen point-of-view.  But with archives and archives, and books and books of information available, this is not an easy task.

Learning from not so distant past I have no plans of reading The Jefferson Lies.

Have you read this book?
The Secret Wife of Louis XIV.  I picked this up from a discount rack of second hand books.  I was smittened with it until I searched the web for more information on the author and the book itself.

One of the author's secondary sources for this book is The Secret Diary of Louis the XIV.  Sounds intriguing, doesn't it?  It turns out that source is a fiction written by an academic imagining the contents of Louis XIV's diary if he ever had one.  How come the author of The Secret Wife..., who had a critically acclaimed book on a queen of Sweden, did not know this source is fiction?

It is heart-breaking for readers, damaging for writers, and a headache for publishers when a history book that seems promising end as being unreliable.

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