Here's a test to see whether "period style" makes the difference between good, bad writing etc: (yes, I do know that these weren't "histories" in the terms we have been discussing): Compare a page of the very similar (in intention, subject) memoirs written by each of the exact contemporaries: Gleig, Aitchison, Harris, Schaumann. Compare each of these with a page of Wellington's/Moore's letters. You will readily see (as I'm sure you already know) that style varies enormously among them. There is such a thing as period style, but some of these writers are so dull that you struggle along with difficulty, some vague, prolix, florid, while others are to the point, clear, straightforward, even racy.
Certainly. Even in written histories you will find good, easy to read text, and then very poor, hard to read text. If you believe that the histories today are better written, I certainly can agree with you, for a number of reasons. But we are still dealing with generalizations, so it is difficult to be certain.
If you are saying that the histories are better historiography, I can only say "yes and no." There are certainly some brilliant and new works being done.
I don't believe that in any real terms a gap has opened up between academics and populists. While there is such a gap, it appears greater today because both fieldshave expanded considerably recently. It's not an impassable divide. Some of the best popular books are written by academics - so to pursue the argument, a few terms would have to be defined. Again, as argued elsewhere on the forum, it's more often a question of horses for courses.
If you don't believe there is a gap, then how do you explain the awful history in the quote I provided. Wawro is a trained historian, and I would think would have had other historians critique his work, yet in just the first chapter I found dozens of blatantly ahistorical statements like that quote. Can you find similar 'mistakes' in past histories, from a lack of information, but known facts that are completely misconstrued, yet central to their book theme/arguments? We are talking about professional historians here.
One thing puzzles me about the posts - the reluctance to give the laurels to today's writers? I stand by my belief that history writing is better today than it ever was.
Not me. I think there are any number of very fine writers/historians today.
I am unhappy about the 'general' willingness of professed historians to turn their back on historiographical practices and their willingness to produce the tripe such as Wawro, or the very brilliantly flawed presentation and research of a Scott Bowden in his Austerlitz book.