Writing with Medieval History: James Meek and Samantha Harvey

James Meek and Samantha Harvey

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The joys (and tribulations) of novelists writing with history

How do you go about researching historical fiction? Our panel considers the way in which medieval literature continues to provide a constant source of modern inspiration for contemporary novelists, and the joys (and tribulations) of working with historical sources. 

Featuring authors James Meek and Samantha Harvey and chaired by Alex Clark. James Meek's latest book, To Calais, In Ordinary Time is set in the 14th century at the time of the Black Death and draws heavily on the Luttrell Psalter, held at the British Library. Samantha Harvey's The Western Wind is set in 15th-century Oakham, Somerset where the reader sees a medieval world tangible in its immediacy through the eyes of the village priest, John Reve.

Alex Clark is a critic, journalist and broadcaster, who writes on a wide range of topics for the Guardian, the Observer, the Spectator and the Times Literary Supplement. She regularly judges literary awards and chairs events.

James Meek is the author of six novels including The People’s Act of Love which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won both the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Scottish Arts Council Award. It has been published in more than 30 countries. Meek’s latest novel is To Calais, In Ordinary Time. His previous novel The Heart Broke In was shortlisted for the Costa Book Award and he has also written two collections of short stories and a book of non-fiction, Private Island,which won the 2015 Orwell Prize. He is a Contributing Editor to the London Review of Books and writes regularly for The Guardian and New York Times.

Samantha Harvey is the author of four novels, The Wilderness, All Is Song, Dear Thief and The Western Wind. Her novels have been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Guardian First Book Award, the Walter Scott Prize and the James Tait Black Prize, and longlisted for the Baileys Prize, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize, the HWA Gold Crown Award and the Man Booker Prize. She won the AMI Literature Award and the Betty Trask Prize. She lives in Bath, UK, and is a Reader in creative writing at Bath Spa University.

Image: James Meek © Marzena Pogorsaly, 2019 and Samantha Harvey


Name: Writing with Medieval History: James Meek and Samantha Harvey
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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Price: Full Price: £12.00
Member: £12.00
Senior 60+: £10.00
Student: £8.00
Registered Unemployed: £8.00
Disabled: £8.00
Under 18: £8.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546