Why did you write it like a story rather than just saying the information?

Primary History article

By Penelope Harnett, published 7th December 2010

Please note: this article pre-dates the 2014 National Curriculum and some content may be outdated.

Six-year-old Rebecca asked me this question when I visited her classroom to share a book which I had written with her and her classmates. It seemed to me at the time that Rebecca was identifying a problem which has preoccupied historians for generations; how to understand and communicate ‘the past' to a wider audience who were not present when the events took place. Interestingly, Rebecca makes the distinction between a ‘story' and ‘saying the information'.

Some historians may argue that history is always a story, dependent on the version of the past that they want to tell. The historian E.H. Carr talks about facts sitting on the fishmonger's slab waiting to be picked up and used by historians to make them into historical facts and a historical narrative about the past (Carr, 1964). Different  historians select different facts and therefore interpretations of the past may differ. More recent historians such as White argue that history is indeed fiction; a re-telling of the past which is never fully knowable, since historians live in the present and are removed from the past (White, 1987)...

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