A very nice post on Wonders & Marvels teeing up interest in Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson:
In the late summer of 1610 the captain guided the Discovery into modern Hudson Bay. He decided to spend the winter in Canadian waters even though he knew the ship would become trapped in ice. At some point during the bitterly cold months, some crew members decided they had suffered enough. When June came and the bay thawed, rebels put Hudson, his son, and seven loyal or ill men on a small boat (known as a shallop) and set them adrift. According to the survivors, the mutineers soon met a just fate when a group of Inuit killed four of them. A fifth rebel died, apparently of malnutrition, as the boat sailed homeward.
Apparently some historians were being paid £120,000 advances, seems to me the number of authors getting those kinds of figures must have been tiny:
Among the hardest hit are historians, who have found that books that would previously have earned them an advance of £120,000 are now commanding only £30,000. Some academics have turned from serious history to historical fiction to earn more money.
Tristram Hunt, who is believed to have received an advance of £100,000 for his biography of Friedrich Engels, said that he knew of several colleagues who had taken up fiction because it sold comparitively well. “There is a dangerous tendency among historians to slide into historical fiction, which must be avoided at all costs,” he said.
Lisa Jardine, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London, said that she was avoiding a new contract because of the uncertain state of the market. “I would not be surprised if I were now offered half of my last advance,” she said. “A few years ago we got really handsome advances to write books that did indeed become quite good bestsellers, but never earned out their advances. Then the publishers started asking jobbing authors to write books that did annoyingly well, but they’ve dried up, too. Now, as far as I know, what has replaced us are books about the history of science.”
Somewhat late in the day to be posting this article in The Guardian about the new history kids on the block but it is well worth the read:
Today’s schoolchildren do not leap at the chance to study history – in fact, it’s no longer even a core subject. The Conservative education spokesman, Michael Gove, says that history has been dying out in Britain’s schools in the last decade – and it’s true that the percentage of pupils taking GCSEs in the subject has fallen. But that might be about to change because history is becoming cool and the fightback is being spearheaded by a group of young, fashionable writers.
They have been an actor, an artist and a TV presenter, are aged between 25 and 35 and they all have book contracts. One wrote his account of the year 1381 in a corner of the trendy London members’ club, Soho House, during leave from his day job at a men’s magazine. And rather than being looked down upon by the old guard, they are highly regarded by the academic establishment: David Starkey is considered a mentor by two of them; Simon Sebag Montefiore by others.
Lots more out there in the world of history. If there is anything anyone wants me to mention or link to, please feel free to e-mail me at eoinpurcellsblog AT gmail.com.