The Historical Narrative

Karen Abbott: I’m not a historian and I’m not an academic. So you know my . . . I figured my job in this was . . . as a journalist was to tell a story and tell it, you know, as accurately as I could, as thoroughly as I could, but also as entertainingly as I could. And I sort of . . . I try to do that by, you know . . . Luckily a lot of my writing group are novelists, so they would tell me . . . We would exchange drafts and read each other’s work. You know and they would tell me if . . . They would write in the margins like, “I am so bored.” Or they coined a phrase called “information dump”. Like if I had just, you know, wanted to prove how much research I did and just sort of like, you know, wrote page after page of statistics without any narrative thread throughout, they would call me for that and I was really grateful for that. It was important for me to sort of get down all of the information, but without losing any narrative moment. So that’s what I tried to do. That’s a good question too. You know I didn’t wanna be objective. I wanted to have a point of view, and I hope I . . . I hope the book does have a point of view. You know I think that it’s almost impossible for anyone to be objective. I think the whole idea that journalists are objective is a fallacy. Everybody comes to a story of their preconceived ideas and preconceived notions. That’s not to say they can’t change, or be colored, or influenced, or broadened by what they learn along the way. But everybody comes to what they . . . what they’re about to write with their own baggage too, and their research. So I think that objectivity is something that’s really not achievable, and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

Recorded On: 1/22/08

Can a historical narrative ever be objective?

Related Articles

How schizophrenia is linked to common personality type

Both schizophrenics and people with a common personality type share similar brain patterns.

(shutterstock)
Mind & Brain
  • A new study shows that people with a common personality type share brain activity with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
  • The study gives insight into how the brain activity associated with mental illnesses relates to brain activity in healthy individuals.
  • This finding not only improves our understanding of how the brain works but may one day be applied to treatments.
Keep reading Show less

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less