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History's relevance in the 20th century

Melvyn Bragg discusses the relevance of the study of history in the 20th century and examines the place of imagination in the writing of it. What place does myth have in shaping our history?

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the study of history this century. One of the debates raging in the practice of history is between the history of facts versus the imagination - a debate raised again by so-called ‘faction’ - fiction based on documentary facts which is so much in our minds today from films and television. But in fact it is a debate which has been going on throughout the century within history. The 19th century historian Thomas Macaulay wrote that History is under the jurisdiction of two hostile powers; and like other districts similarly situated it is ill-defined, ill-cultivated and ill-regulated. Instead of being equally shared between its two rulers, the Reason and the Imagination, it falls alternately under the sole and absolute dominion of each. It is sometimes fiction and sometimes theory.Why is the study of history important? Is history relevant to us today? Are the truths likely to be yielded from history closer to those disclosed in great novels than the abstract general laws sought by social scientists? And what is the role of imagination in the writing of history? With Simon Schama, Old Dominion Professor of Humanities, Columbia University in New York and currently filming a 16-part series for BBC Television on the history of Britain; Lady Antonia Fraser historian, writer and author of biographies of Mary Queen of Scots, Cromwell and Charles II.

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30 minutes

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