The differences and similarities between historical fiction and academic history: Rebecca Stott


Speaker: Rebecca Stott (author, University of East Anglia)

Rebecca Stott sees historical fiction and academic history as being on a spectrum rather than in anyway being opposites.  At one end you have the dry historical analysis and at the other the pleasurable read but where each history or fiction resides very much depends on the writer and the reader’s point of view.


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About Matt Phillpott

I am an historian of early modern Britain and the Digital Resources Manager at the School of Advanced Study. My main area of interest is in the authentication of knowledge in early print, including religious, historical, and agricultural texts.

3 thoughts on “The differences and similarities between historical fiction and academic history: Rebecca Stott

  1. Rebecca Stott discusses her evolution from a writer of academic history to one of historical fiction, and how she flows between them. Her desire to explore beyond what is documented and breathe life into her subjects by not only painting scenes but extrapolating mindsets and emotions is fascinating. Although I am not a historian, I find myself wanting to read her books to see how she has accomplished this.

    Which of her books should I start with?

  2. Ghostwalk and The Coral Thief are both fantastic.

    I loved Rebecca’s contribution. I started out as an archaeologist rather than a historian, but I absolutely know what she means when she talks about “reaching the end of the archive, the limit of what is “foot-noteable.” This is exactly where I found myself. The archaeologist, Christopher Hawkes, used to talk about a “ladder of inference:” archaeological evidence allows us to talk quite easily about prehistoric technology and economy, but gives us far fewer clues as to the belief systems and politics of our distant ancestors. I wanted to go much further, even than this. I was asking myself what Neolithic morality was all about, how people conceptualised their relationship with the ancestors and the spirit world, how courtship worked in the world of the people who built Stonehenge, and I found that only fiction could get me there, so I started writing it.


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