History must at least be readable if we’re to learn anything from it

Richard Cohen was once one of our foremost book editors as well as being an Olympic sabre champion. Since moving to New York 20 years ago he has turned author himself, writing books on Tolstoy, the sun and his own sport of swordsmanship. Now he focuses his attention on historians. His aim, he tells us at the outset of this superb survey from Herodotus to Mary Beard, is to discover the opinions, biases and open prejudices of those who chronicled the past and thus shaped the way we view it. Making History is very much a compendium of his own tastes and enthusiasms, and cheerfully omits such masters as Clarendon