W&N to publish What Is History Now?

W&N to publish What Is History Now?

Weidenfeld & Nicolson will publish an essay collection meant as a modern update to E H Carr's 1961 seminal work, What is History? featuring contributions from Peter Frankopan and Simon Schama and edited by Helen Carr and Suzannah Lipscomb.

Editorial director Maddy Price acquired world rights to What Is History Now? from Rachel Mills of Rachel Mills Literary and Carrie Plitt of Felicity Bryan Associates. W&N will release the book in August 2021 for the 60th anniversary of the publication of E H Carr's book.    

Lipscomb is a professor at the University of Roehampton whose work centres mainly on the Tudor and Stuart periods and is well-known as a presenter of many British historical programmes—and her two-year stint as a regular contributor to Dictionary Corner on the game show "Countdown". Carr (pictured) has produced a number of historical documentaries for a range of broadcasters including the BBC, Sky Arts and CNN; hosts the "Hidden Histories" podast; and her first book, The Red Prince, about John of Gaunt, will be published next year by Oneworld. She is the great-granddaughter of E H Carr. 

What Is History Now? is intended to address how we interpret history today—"what stories are told, and by whom, who should be celebrated, and what should be rewritten?" W&N said contributors will be a diverse mix of bestselling names and emerging voices, covering topics such as the history of racism and anti-racism, queer history, the history of faith, the history of disability, environmental history, escaping imperial nostalgia, hearing women’s voices and "rewriting" the past.

In addition to bestsellers Frankopan and Schama, other contributors include the classicist and BBC presenter Bettany Hughes, author of The Plantagenets (Viking, 2012) Dan Jones, Oxford sinologist Rana Mitter and Jaipreet Virdi, a historian and author whose work focuses on how medicine and technology impact on disabled people. Carr and Lipscomb will also each contribute an essay.

Price said: "As someone with a passion for the past, I share Helen and Suzannah’s belief that history is for everyone. The themes raised in this book could not be more important or timely. Helen and Suzannah have brilliantly curated a list of exciting voices which will come together to create one compelling, giftable volume that will no doubt spark many conversations."

Carr and Lipscomb said in a joint statement: "Sixty years ago, What Is History? established that history is interpretation. Today, when many people are feeling intrigued and perturbed by recent debates about how and whose history should be commemorated, feeling alienated from the stories that have been told, and fascinated by those that have been omitted from history, we think it is timely to return to the question Carr posed. The essays explore how people approach the past, ways of telling the past, and histories that have been marginalised, including the history of women, black history, LGBTQ+ histories, the history of people with disabilities, and indigenous histories. This is a book for everyone who is questioning how to look at the past, how to think about the present, and how to act in the future."