Re: Best Guess or Worst Doubt: What's the Role of Conjecture in Writing Biography and History?

Dear All, 

I've been scratching my head about the issues Lois raised in her original post and am circling back here in hopes of offering some more helpful input. I'll admit that I think the best advice I can offer on her original questions: 

Re: Best Guess or Worst Doubt: What's the Role of Conjecture in Writing Biography and History?

Thanks to all for responding, as I navigated my '99 Saturn across the U.S. to start my research fellowship at Library of Virginia. A few replies to specific comments in this thread -- and then one more plea/demand for input:

Re: Best Guess or Worst Doubt: What's the Role of Conjecture in Writing Biography and History?

Dear All, 

I very much appreciate Lois's post and will suggest that it's relevant to more or less any exercise in historical interpretation.  Let me add a few disconnected thoughts that are hopefully of some service. 

Re: Best Guess or Worst Doubt: What's the Role of Conjecture in Writing Biography and History?

As a trained historian and archivist, my feeling on this topic was changed in graduate school reading biographies on Progressive Era U.S. Presidents written in the early-mid 20th century, in the absence of access to their personal papers or archival collections. Having worked with collections of original archival materials connected with those presidencies, I often found the narrative prose and summations of the writers contradicted with the original records found in archives long after the books' being written.

Event: Writing for the Public: How to Get Started (free for OAH members)

(Sharing this for anyone in our network who is also a member of the Organization of American Historians)

Writing for the Public: How to get started 

Webinar and Working Group

A free interactive webinar and working group presented by Made by History, Washington Post

When: Monday, August 30, 2 pm-3:30 pm (ET)

Limited to 90 people

Re: Best Guess or Worst Doubt: What's the Role of Conjecture in Writing Biography and History?

In 1999, Ron Chernow delivered a public lecture on biography-writing for the New York Council for the Humanities (where I worked at the time), which is archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20010406085926/http://www.culturefront.org/cu.... He raised some of the same questions that Lois Leveen poses here.

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