Sunday, 17 October 2010

This month's BBC History magazine

The cover has Henry VII and Henry VIII and an article by Desmond Seward to coincide with his book 'The Last White Rose - the secret war against the Tudors', which I have but have not began to read yet. In the book review section is a review of Ian Mortimer's 'Medieval Intrigue' by Nicholas Vincent, professor of history at the University of East Anglia. I admit to beng totally blown away, as it were, by Ian Mortimer's book, but Vincent is not. The review is meant to be available on-line but isn't 'showing' for me, so I'll quote from the magazine itself.

Vincent's main concern is ' Mortimer's doubts have burgeoned into a theory which itself has failed to win approval from the academic establishment.........critics have, on the whole, either sat firmly on the fence or just as firmly rejected his tottering tower of conjecture. Most writers would at this point pass on to better things. Not Mortimer, who has now brought together a collection of essays not only to restate his theory, but to indict his critics with grave crimes: a lack of professionalism, a herd mentality, a refusal to entertain ideas beyond the accepted concensus............[However] Far from being the victim of a spiteful academic cartel that has refused him access to the published media, Mortimer is in fact a best-selling author with a particular hefty axe to grind. The louder and more repeatedly he grinds his axe, the more he risks being mistaken for a solipist, incapable of dispassionate neutrality about his own pet theories'.

This is an abridged version of the review, which only offers a few sentences at the end on the quality of the book - the rest is taken up with a critique of Ian Mortimer's 'pet theory'. As I previously blogged, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the struggle to get his essays published and taken seriously were a huge part of the enjoyment, plus Mortimer's challenge to question what we think we know about history. Perhaps he won't be surprised to find this reviewer merely challenges his 'theory' rather than reviewing the process of how his work has been received, challenged and evaluated, and how Mortimer arrived at his conclusion that Edward II did indeed survive beyond 1327. I'm certainly a convert!


Kathryn said...

I don't think much of that review, I have to admit. Saying that Ian Mortimer is 'refused access to the published media' is totally missing his point!

Anerje said...

Exactly - that's how I felt. Ian Mortimer wants - and deserves - respect for his work. This 'review' totally misses the point of 'Medieval Intrigue', IMO.

Anerje said...

And referring to Mortimer's research in terms such as a 'tottering tower of conjecture' again shows a lack of respect.

Gabriele C. said...

Heh, I bet some of the academic establishment are just pissed that his books sell. ;)

And everyone can have access to published media. What a nonsense. Unpublished essays and research notes are another matter entirely - I can imagine no one who disagrees with his theses would send him a copy of that stuff. And I admit, it is nice to get essays prior to publication (which often takes a few years in the academic world as well).

Anerje said...

Hi Gabriele! I hope you got last month's edition, which had Roman Britain in it.