I have just discovered that I am not alone in being irritated by the titles of TV programmes such as The Secret History of… when the content reveals nothing that was a secret.  Very occasionally there are discoveries of secret papers, but usually all the information was available to anyone who looked.  A more honest title would be Things you probably did not know about… 

JHM Claims

The recent series on Great Fibs of History presented by Lucy Worsley is at least more honest in its title.  It is a reminder that history is written by the winners.  Some of the ‘revelations’ have been around for some time.  It is just that a certain view has been more widely known or accepted by the public.  In particular, William Shakespeare’s interpretation of history has all too often been the one that stuck.  He was, of course, a playwright not a historian.  And he had an agenda.  Keeping in with the Court.

I am grateful to Lucy for helping get some of the alternative views (not alternative facts) some publicity.

For historical novelists there is always a decision to be made as to whether to accept or challenge the generally held views.  Do we give the readers what they expect or do we surprise them?

I try to be true to my own understanding, usually.  Of course, I am writing fiction, and sometimes take liberties with history to help the story.  In Highwaypersons: Debts and Duties, I made the Battle of Preston take an extra day to give my hero time to do his stuff, as I admitted in the historical notes in the book.

In the sequel, Highwaypersons II: The King’s Justice, there are some little-known facts about the slave trade.  I hope readers will find them interesting and will not be upset if they contradict the commonly held views.  I am not revealing secrets.  Just pointing out things that have often been overlooked.

JHM Claims