In Honor of Hilary Mantel

Dame Hilary Mantel, the great historical novelist famous for the “Wolf Hall” books about Thomas Cromwell has died at the age of 70. She will be sorely missed. The following is one her most valuable lessons for all historians:

“Evidence is always partial. Facts are not truth, though they are part of it – information is not knowledge. And history is not the past – it is the method we have evolved of organising our ignorance of the past. It’s the record of what’s left on the record. It’s the plan of the positions taken, when we to stop the dance to note them down. It’s what’s left in the sieve when the centuries have run through it – a few stones, scraps of writing, scraps of cloth. It is no more “the past” than a birth certificate is a birth, or a script is a performance, or a map is a journey. It is the multiplication of the evidence of fallible and biased witnesses, combined with incomplete accounts of actions not fully understood by the people who performed them. It’s no more than the best we can do, and often it falls short of that.”

One Response to In Honor of Hilary Mantel

  1. Dorothy Barkley says:

    I fell in love with Mantel’s writing when I first read Wolf Hall. I note her passing with great regret; she is a great loss.

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