On writing history

Trying to write the history of the modern day is extremely difficult: the closeness of the events distorts one’s vision and then there is the overwhelming amount of sources. Robert Louis Stevenson’s observation is surely right: “The obscurest epoch is today” (cited Charles Nicholl, Traces Remain: Essays and Explorations [London: Penguin Books, 2011], xvii). A few years ago, the renowned English historian Linda Colley suggested the best century—she called it “God’s century”—to study was the 18th century (David Snowman, “Linda Colley”, History Today, 53, no.1 [January 2003], 18). The sources for this period are abundant but not so much as to overwhelm the researcher. Of course, anyone who spends an enormous amount of time in Andrew Fuller must be biased and it didn’t take much to convince me Colley was spot-on.