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Members’ Room Event

Richard Cohen, Making History: The Storytellers Who Shaped the Past

Thursday, May 12, 2022 - 6:00 PM | Members' Room | open to the public | free of charge | registration required

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A fascinating, epic exploration of who gets to record the world’s history—from Julius Caesar to William Shakespeare to Ken Burns—and how their biases influence our understanding about the past.

There are many stories we can spin about previous ages, but which accounts get told? And by whom? Is there even such a thing as “objective” history? In this lively and thought-provoking book, Richard Cohen reveals how professional historians and other equally significant witnesses, such as the writers of the Bible, novelists, and political propagandists, influence what becomes the accepted record. Cohen argues, for example, that some historians are practitioners of “Bad History” and twist reality to glorify themselves or their country.

Making History investigates the published works and private utterances of our greatest chroniclers to discover the agendas that informed their—and our—views of the world. From the origins of history writing, when such an activity itself seemed revolutionary, through to television and the digital age, Cohen brings captivating figures to vivid light, from Thucydides and Tacitus to Voltaire and Gibbon, Winston Churchill and Henry Louis Gates. Rich in complex truths and surprising anecdotes, the result is a revealing exploration of both the aims and art of history-making, one that will lead us to rethink how we learn about our past and about ourselves.

Richard Cohen is the author of By the Sword, Chasing the Sun, and How to Write Like Tolstoy. The former publishing director of two leading London publishing houses, he has edited books that have won the Pulitzer, Booker, and Whitbread/Costa prizes, while twenty-one have been #1 bestsellers. He has written for most UK quality newspapers as well as for The New York Times Book Review and The Wall Street Journal, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.


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