Masterpiece’s Richard Maurer recently interviewed Bernard Cornwell and asked him the following question:
“Each of your novels ends with a historical essay about the actual incidents and sources behind your story. What do you believe is the historical novelist’s responsibility to history?”
Cornwell: “I think those afterwords are absolutely necessary, because I am not an historian; I am a storyteller. Whenever the demands of the story clash with the dictate of real history, the story is going to win, because my job is to entertain; it’s not to educate. But I do understand that for many people, as it was for me when I was young, historical novels are a gateway to history; and they will persuade people, I hope, to go on to read the real history. I think that once you finish a book, it’s incumbent upon the historical novelist to tell people where he changed history and maybe why; and also where they can go to discover more about the period. So, yes, I do think that my job is to serve history and to serve historians — but to do it by doing a song and dance.”
Do you agree or disagree with Cornwell? What are your thoughts?