The trouble with history

The Economist:

Academic historians tend to be sniffy about all this. But though their own work may be unsullied by ingratiating ornament, it is also, often, untouched by readers. In one exemplary if extreme comparison, Diarmaid MacCulloch’s exhaustive biography of Thomas Cromwell sold a respectable 32,000 copies in Britain. Ms Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” trilogy, which also recounts Cromwell’s life, has sold 1.9m and counting. As Dan Jones, a popular writer of medieval history, says diplomatically,academic histories tend “not to have crisp readability at the top of their list of priorities”. More bluntly, he reckons that “most academic history is unreadable”.