Friday, August 27, 2010

Lady Antonia Fraser: Historian Extraordinaire

PhotobucketAs a major history and social studies geek, I can barely imagine what my life would be like without the works of Lady Antonia Fraser...

Fraser's writing combines the rigourous research that is the hallmark of quality history with the kind of sensitivity and insight which is currently being applied to the relatively new discipline of 'social history', of which she is a pioneer. Hard-line old school historians may scoff, and refer to Fraser's work as 'revisionist', to which I would respond by waving a bottle of brandy at them until I got their attention and then toss it aside to watch them give chase. This is entirely in keeping with my contempt for ossified academics and their endless recycling of a petrified world-view; history, after all, is in a constant process of revision, so any criticism of so-called revisionist history is both egregious and jejeune*.

Beginning with Mary, Queen of Scots (1969) Fraser has alternated between histories and detective fiction ever since, writing from her quaint fourth-floor study in the Holland Park house she shared until recently with her husband, playwright Harold Pinter, who died in December 2008.

*Two words I first learned from reading - you guessed it! - the works of Lady Antonia Fraser.
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