The World in Time

Richard Cohen

Friday, May 13, 2022

The Historian Animating the Mind of a Young Painter, by Thomas Rowlandson, 1784. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Elisha Whittelsey Collection, Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1959.

“When Herodotus composed his great work,” Richard Cohen writes at the start of Making History: The Storytellers Who Shaped the Past, “people named it The Histories, but scholars have pointed out that the word means more accurately ‘inquiries’ or ‘researches.’ Calling it The Histories dilutes its originality. I want to make a larger claim about those who have shaped the way we view our past—actually, who have given us our past. I believe that the wandering Greek’s investigations brought into play, 2,500 years ago, a special kind of inquiry—one that encompasses geography, ethnography, philology, genealogy, sociology, biography, anthropology, psychology, imaginative re-creation (as in the arts), and many other kinds of knowledge, too. The person who exhibits this wide-ranging curiosity should rejoice in the title: historian.”


This week on the podcast, Lewis H. Lapham speaks with Richard Cohen, author of Making History: The Storytellers Who Shaped the Past, about some of the historians discussed in his book, as well as the many mediums they relied on to shape their narratives.


Thanks to our generous donors. Lead support for this podcast has been provided by Elizabeth “Lisette” Prince. Additional support was provided by James J. “Jimmy” Coleman Jr.

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