Friday, March 16, 2007

On David McCullough

Iannone: Do you agree that popular history, the work of David McCullough, for example, now supplies some of that narrative or story that readers crave and that academic historians have abandoned? Is there any downside to this?

Barzun: I greatly admire David McCullough’s work both in biography and in history and I do not consider him “popular” because his latest books have turned out to be widely read. That has been the public’s good sense and good luck. History writing, we must not forget, is for the educated part of the population, not just for fellow historians to haggle over. Macaulay hoped that his great work would find a place on the young lady’s dressing table, presumably to be read, not to show off.

— Carol Iannone, “A Conversation with Jacques Barzun,” Academic Questions, Volume 19, Number 4 / Fall 2006, Pages 19 - 27