Historians are not only “students of history”. We also make history. Without us, the story of the past is lost as soon as its living memory fades. In the High Middle Ages, when writing about secular affairs was still so unusual that to do so needed justification, historians and scribes often argued that their work served to prevent the “forgetfulness of those alive today, and the ignorance of those who live in the future” (I am translating from an early thirteenth-century Latin charter typical of the age). Historians stand between memory and oblivion.
I was reminded of that role while reading Valerie Hemingway’s Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways (New York: Balantine Books, 2004). First, a disclosure: I don’t find Hemingway’s work very interesting and appear incapable Continue reading