When is history, History? In the Genre sense?

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When is history, History? In the Genre sense?

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1FirstWord
dec 23, 2016, 3:00am

Literally, history is anything from yesterday. Right? But when classifying Non-Fiction as History, where's the line drawn? 10 years ago? 50? Or is it over 100? Is it the 1800s and beyond as antique dealers would classify items? Just wondering where contemporary ends and history begins.

For example, would I class Wolf of Wall Street (from the 1980s) a Historical Narrative, or is it still a Contemporary Narrative? Thanks Guys.

2ThomasWatson
dec 23, 2016, 11:33am

I'm not sure such a line can actually be drawn, at least, not in a technical or objective sense. Perhaps the concept of living memory would serve. When no one (or very few people) remain alive who were directly touch by an event, it could be said to have passed into "history." But that's still more of a grey zone than a line.

Interesting question...

3paradoxosalpha
dec 23, 2016, 12:20pm

I don't think history is the domain of dead people. It has less to do with when the narrative transpires than how and by whom it is related. The writer/speaker must be a third party not present for the events described (this supplies distinctions from memoir, autobiography, and much journalism), must draw on documentary sources, and must be addressed to an audience for whom the events constitute "what has gone before."

4cindydavid4
dec 23, 2016, 1:06pm

Oh my goodness this has been an ongoing discussion on Historicfiction.com since forever. Not only is it hard to pinpoint what is historic just by date, but also by author. Looking particularly at historic fiction - if an author is writing in their own time, but it is far in our past, is that considered HF? Dickens wrote Tale of Two Cities that was based on an historic event for him. Would that have been considered HF (if such a concept even existed at that time)?

The concept also changes depending on the age of the beholder. I remember my father being appalled by some things I didn't know about the history in WWII and the depression. Im appalled that I have to explain President Nixon to my young colleagues. And so it goes..

I also wonder if the 24/7 news cycle is changing the way we think about history. We are so bombared by news that history is changing every day.

>3 paradoxosalpha: I like your idea of how and by whom its reelated tho I don't agree it has to be third party. If that were the case, so many first person accounts would not apply.

When I think of history, I think of an event that has made an impact on present events. Which means that everything is history. Its all so confusing....but a fun discussion

5.Monkey.
dec 23, 2016, 5:14pm

There's plenty of threads about this already on LT as well. I would go search out one of those rather than trying to get people to repeat themselves yet again.

6AnnieMod
dec 23, 2016, 5:45pm

My history teacher used to say that anything that happened before you were born is history; everything that happened since then is current events for you. But as this is impractical, history usually has a boundary which depends on the nation and is usually the most major event in the life of the previous generation - WWII still seems to be that major event that splits history into what my textbook referred as "new history" and history...

In my view, looking for an exact number of years is pushing a calendar concept to events that do not follow them. For example in Bulgaria, 1989 is the year when the regime changed and that's where the history of the world regime ends and the children of the times have their own children now... A revolution in 1976 will make it the boundary for the country that went through it. At the same time the Arabian spring is too new to be merely history.

For your example - I would say "historical" - not because of the number of years that had passed but because of the major changes in Wall Street since then - including the crisis of the last decade...

7FirstWord
dec 24, 2016, 8:12pm

Sorry guys, I didn't think this topic had been ongoing in LT (makes sense though). But, I do like the perspectives of paradoxsalpha and AnnieMod.

Thinking about it though, the answer (to me) is rather quite logical. History, simply covers a dedicated time period, ie 1950s, 1800s, or a major event, such as the GFC or 9/11, that involves many people. To me, I would then catalogue it as history.

If the event follows a central person or story that links events together as a story, then I would tag it under both 'Narrative' and its relevant time period, '1980s'.

Thanks guys. Appreciate the discussion.

8paradoxosalpha
Redigerat: dec 25, 2016, 9:17am

>7 FirstWord:

Well, the topic hadn't been going here (in this group), and I don't think this is a bad place for it.

The qualifier "involves many people" has been actively resisted by some professional historians for the last few decades with output in the "microhistory" subgenre, for which The Return of Martin Guerre is a an early paragon. The debate around that book seems especially germane to the issues of defining history generally and the boundaries between academic history and historical fiction more particularly.

9Seajack
dec 25, 2016, 6:03pm

I would say that "history" involves events that most current folks are too young to remember; I suppose World War II is getting to be a good example. Anything more recent would be "modern (recent) history" for a classification.

10MarthaJeanne
dec 26, 2016, 2:03am

I think the difference is not so much in the when it happened but in how and why the book was written. History describes what happened. Trys to bring in background and tie in loose ends. It should try to be fairly objective. Current affairs books are written to try to influence how we think and act about the news as it happens.

There is a place for history books written just after events, even though they may need to be replaced a few years later.

112wonderY
dec 27, 2016, 11:24am

And the immediate take on particular events becomes part of that history as well. It is sometimes fascinating to track how much opinions and analyses change over time.