Novel Approaches: from academic history to historical fiction

Novel approaches project image

The relationship between academic history and historical fiction is a subject of great interest to historians. Major academic conferences, for example the American Historical Association gathering (January 2010) and the Leeds Medieval Congress (July 2011), have included papers and sessions on the subject, and they are proving among the most lively and well attended. There are numerous examples of historians who have successfully moved into the sphere of fiction, and conversely of authors whose fiction is underpinned by rigorous research. The large and growing public interest in history in Britain takes in both historical fact and historical fiction. And it is clear that many historians were at least in part inspired to pursue historical research by novels that they had read, or indeed are currently either planning to write or are writing their own works of fiction.

The Novel Approaches: from academic history to historical fiction conference which took place at the IHR on the 17 and 18 November 2011 sought to explore this phenomenon bringing together a wide range of speakers, including academic and public historians, authors and publishers. They examined such questions as: Why have historical novels become 'respectable', and why anecdotally are historians being encouraged to write them? What is the difference between historical fiction and academic history, and how rigid are the boundaries between the two? How good are readers at differentiating between 'fact' and 'fiction' and how much does it matter if they don't? Does the success of historical fiction benefit or threaten academic history, and what can literary authors and academics learn from each other

Following this event a project website has been developed initially as a ‘virtual conference’ occurring between 21 and 25 November 2011 and subsequently as a resource in its own right.  The site features podcasted lectures; book reviews and articles by historians and historical novelists; opinion pieces; bibliographies and lists of online resources. All of this information, along with the discussions it provoked, can now be found at the project site.  Please do feel free to add to the discussion!