Does the success of historical fiction benefit or threaten academic history? – Stella Tillyard


Speaker: Stella Tillyard (author and historian)

Stella Tillyard has the unenviable job of bringing the lectures from the conference to a close and she does so by going full circle.  On Monday we provided the podcast from Hilary Mantel’s talk where she stressed what makes a good historical novel is its historical authenticity.  Tillyard argues the opposite – what makes a historical novel good is a a good novelist not its claims to authenticity.


Please see the Podcasts feed for audio files

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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 “Does the success of historical fiction benefit or threaten academic history? – Stella Tillyard

  1. This talk comes from the perspective of the world of literature ad biography writing. It’s extraordinarily wide-ranging, covering Tolstoy, J. G. Ballard, the role of gender (especially masculinity and the power of women – at the royal court and harem), and decolonization. She refers to Hilary Mantel’s discussion ( picking up on some of the author’s comments. She argues forcefully that Wolf Hall is not necessarily a great historical novel, but a great novel through is literary qualities rather than its historical accuracy. Ultimately Wolf Hall is a success because it creates a believable world.

    • I don’t know if I agree with her completely. Wolf Hall is brilliantly written (imho) BUT it is the insight you at least think you are getting into the mindset changes occurring in the sixteenth century which is most thought-provoking…

      • I can see Stella Tillyard’s point – what makes a novel like Wolf Hall popular is that it was well written, with good characters and an exciting plot. Yet, the realistic historical setting is important as it gives a feel of reality to what is being read that might otherwise be lacking. Wolf Hall is good because it gives us an exciting glimpse into past characters and situations that we can IMAGINE are real because we are told that they are based on historical research. I’d say that adds alot to what the novel is about!


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