The Future of History

Sunday, 26 August 2012


Apologies, one and all, for having neglected the blog for a few weeks.  The reason being that I've been tied up with revisions on my Shakespeare manuscript, working towards a deadline in early October.  The pressure's on because the book is already up on (no cover image yet), which makes it all feel a bit real.

While Lindsey, my editor at The History Press, is going through the manuscript ahead of my final revisions, I've been dipping my toes in what is unfamiliar territory - the acquisition of images, or rather the licences permitting me to reproduce those images inside the Shakespeare book.

Didn't have to worry about that sort of thing too much with the Arthur book; expecting to publish The King Arthur Conspiracy myself, I avoided any images in the book which weren't essentially of my own making.  Besides which, images of the historical Arthur and his world aren't all that easy to come by: I could have included photos of various hills, and the odd crumbling hill-fort, but that's about it.

Who Killed William Shakespeare, on the other hand, will have a fair number of images in it.  Many of them portraits of one kind or another.  And, hopefully, a death mask.  And a skull.

These images - portraits, death mask, skull - all have features in common.  Some of those features merely identify them as representing the same individual (William Shakespeare).  Most give clues as to how he died.

So, as you can imagine, they're fairly important.

Anyway, that's why I've been away, as it were.  Finishing the manuscript and starting the painstaking process of accessing and studying images and (hopefully) acquiring the rights to reproduce them in the forthcoming book.

The King Arthur Conspiracy, meanwhile, has been doing its thing.  That is, it's been dividing people.  Those whose thinking is essentially dualistic have been trying to undermine it.  Those whose thinking is more Hermetic have expressed admiration.  No great surprises there, then.  Indeed, that's why I included a quotation from Andre Gide early in the book:

"Alas! there exists an order of minds so sceptical that they deny the possibility of any fact as soon as it diverges from the commonplace.  It is not for them that I write."

I anticipate a similar reaction when the Shakespeare book comes out (next August, according to Amazon).  The dualistic tendency has held sway for an awfully long time, now.  But in history, as in politics, it has become reductive and obstructive.  It argues fiercely against any new fact.  Under cover of a supposed logical rationalism, it advances an agenda which is remarkably political and extremely backward-looking.  It's the reason why we, as a species, are in so much trouble these days.

But then, "It is not for them that I write."

Back soon, I promise!