No one can properly be said to write history but he who understands the human heart


Trevelyan, like Michelet and like Hume, was not afraid to display and manipulate feeling, to conjure and to care. Today’s popular historians must write self-consciously, carefully and with respect for the sensibilities of their subjects; but they can be confident about writing within this tradition, writing with feeling, and about it. There are dangers in too great an identification between author and subject, which can lead to a mapping of modern sensibilities and narratives of life onto the past. But in the best hands, what I’d like to call “emotional history” can combine an original authorial voice, literary awareness and an unashamed quality of love to produce modern popular classics which will last as long as readers find in them something which moves as well as instructs. Emotional history is no less scholarly and no less sophisticated about sources than any other kind. Deducing what someone feels from documentary evidence uses exactly the same techniques as coming to any other sort of conclusion, and since all historical judgements are necessarily partial and subjective, it is equally valid.

more from the TLS here.