The Historian as Knob

Niall Ferguson was on BBC's Start the Week doing a promo of his (authorized) bio of Kissinger (volume one) when he ganged up with Gabriel Gorodetsky to tell Jane Smiley that what historians do is so much more important than what she does. He drips with so much condescension that the episode becomes cringe making. Novelists make things up, he says while historians have to stick to what's true; he presents a picture in which history is, somehow, the more pure. The fact that a historian might approach a subject with his own agenda doesn't seem to occur to him. (Presumably, it did occur to Henry Kissinger.) Andrew Marr is the host who lets things get out of control. It's worth listening to because Smiley gets her back up and puts Ferguson in his place; she's mad as hell and pretty terrific.

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