Magazine December 17, 2020, Issue

How to Write History

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It should be a page-turner, and there’s no right side

When our forefathers sat around the fire in their caves telling stories about the famous mastodon hunts of yesteryear, they found it easy to do, because their listeners always wanted to know the answer to the eternal question “What happened next?” When the veterans of the Trojan War enthralled their grandchildren, and the Vikings told their sagas of long-ago raids, they knew they had their audiences riveted because they could tell them the next stage of the story. Nobody ever asked them to tell the tale thematically or in modules or in a postmodernist format; they just wanted to know

This article appears as “Roberts’s Rules of History” in the December 17, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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Andrew RobertsMr. Roberts is the author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny and the Roger and Martha Mertz Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. 

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