Date posted: 3 June 11, 14:00
By Amanda Foreman
We asked Amanda Foreman to comment on her current work and ideas that have influenced her. Amanda speaks in the festival on the British in the American Civil War on 6 June.
Which of your own ideas have you been thinking about most recently?
Since finishing A World on Fire I have been haunted by the vast gulf between statistics and human experience. One of the great ‘facts’ of the American Civil War is that Sherman’s march to the Sea from Atlanta to Savannah resulted in a great deal of property damage but no rapes of women and girls. Hence out of an army of 62,000 men, only two soldiers were prosecuted for rape during the entire 50-day march. Half way through my research I started coming across British letters – either those sent to England from the US, or those written by British observers in the South – which recorded terrible acts of violence against women. I then realised that these crimes were never recorded because the victims never reported them. They physically couldn’t report them – let alone have the emotional will to do so.
What idea of someone else has made most impact on you recently?
I recently read Roald Dahl on the literary construction behind a good children’s novel and it filled me with admiration for him and all authors who can really reach children.
What are the most important books/articles/websites of ideas that everyone should read and why?
I was particularly moved by the novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. I believe it refocuses the horror of the holocaust for a whole new generation.
In 1910 Charles Masterman asked ‘What will the future make of the present?’ What do you think people in the future will make of the present?
As always – they will think we were dreadfully crude and full of superstition.
What are you most pessimistic about?
I expect there will be more wars in the future – and human suffering will be greater.
What are you most optimistic about?
Medical science – it really is improving.
Who are your heroes?
My hero is Elizabeth Blackwell – the first woman doctor, who spent her entire adult life fighting to open up the field of medicine to women.
Amanda Foreman is the award-winning historian and internationally best-selling author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire: an Epic History of Two Nations Divided. She is also the recipient of the 1998 Whitbread Award for Biography. www.amanda-foreman.com
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