Historical writing: article or essay?

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Angus Writers’ Circle members were asked to write an historical article for their November competition in the Rosely Hotel.

The range of subjects varied from a castle and the tawse, to Covenanters and St Columba.

The adjudicator was Aileen Torrance who studied Scots Law at Glasgow University, then developed a career in IT. Aileen studied history through the Open University and is now a full-time writer of mostly historical fiction.

She began by giving a detailed critique of each script, pointing out that historical subjects can be written as articles or essays. She defined the difference by explaining that historical articles express an opinion, and argue for or against a point of view.

The author is also telling the reader about something of interest in an entertaining way. An essayist is also writing historical pieces to prove a point, but takes a scholarly approach because the writing is aimed at a more academic readership.

Aileen explained to members that her personal approach was to look for a balance between historical content and the subject of the article.

She said that although the writing was very good some of the scripts had too much history, which detracted from the interest in the subject of the article.

She picked one highly commended and one commended before naming the top three scripts.

The winners were: 1, A Strapping Tale, by Eleanor Fordyce; 2, Brechin Castle, by Heather Gourlay; 3, Now That’s Worth Thinking About, by Dr Eric Yeaman. Aileen then opened the meeting to questions and a lively discussion brought the evening to a close.

Ann Craig, vice-president, proposed thanks.