History Must Capture the Drama of “Human Interest”


“This is what we had in mind when we said that interest – human interest – is the keynote of our philosophy of historical composition… Interest fixes attention, and fixed attention is the basis of memorizing.” […]

“Properly presented, the narrative of history should have all the breathless interest of a novel – for what is so fascinating as a true story from human life? [The attempt must be made] to raise history towards the level of fiction in point of interest, without sacrificing anything of scientific accuracy. No account [should be given merely because it is picturesque, to the exclusion of a truer narrative; but the preference [should always be] given to the graphic story as against the dull, where the two have equal authority as to matters of fact.” […]

“…for again, what is dramatization but for the mimicry of life? In particular, it is hoped that [a] dramatization of history will present events of the long play in something like a true perspective, the large events looming large in [the] story, the lesser ones forced into the background. […] Even the minor characters…though they act only as chorus, or prate a few lines in the play where the chief personages will dominate the situation as they dominated it in real life, and as they dominate it in the memory of posterity. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon – such figures will loom large in our drama of history; yet it will never be forgotten that the play is not a monologue. The minor actors [must] be given a fair hearing from first to last.”

Excerpted from: The Historians' History of the World: Prolegomena; Egypt, Mesopotamia edited by Henry Smith Williams, Volume 1, 1907. (30-31)

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