Any anachronisms creep in?
Lepore: To the contrary, we had to work pretty hard to give ourselves permission for things to not be the way they were. I got fairly worked up about our moving the date of the actual taking effect of the Sugar and Currency Act. It was actually Sept. 24 1764 and we moved it to Oct. 8 or some such thing. But there were reasons we needed to move it, not the least of which was that we needed there to be a full moon on the night it took effect. And we knew when the full moon was and it seemed really important to honor the lunar calendar. At least for me, I found that my habit of being a historian, of being as faithful as possible to the historical record, to the sensibility of the era and to the idiom of the period was so important. The problem wasn't creeping anachronism, it was creeping cronism.
Kamensky: Similarly with voice. We wanted an idiom that gave readers the flavor of the period but we didn't want to ask them to actually read 18th century fiction, which is hard and which you (gestures to Lepore) consider pleasure reading, but I don't. So I think in things like the voice, we wanted to be faithful to the spirit but be willing to be anachronistic in a way. We spend as much time in the 17th and 18th century as we do in the 21st. I have checks where I write "1708." The "oh they wouldn't have had a camera," the kind of anachronism that period films are often hampered by the fear of, or "let's make sure they don't have zippers, because they would have had buttons." We know way too much about that for our own good. The work for us was trying to pull the other way, to make the 18th century vital and current to readers now. The people who have done that best for lay readers are the doorstop biographers. Someone who reads McCullogh's John Adams thinks "I get this guy." As historians we don't often work for that effect, but this was a place to do it.
Was there a sense of trading off of territoriality?
Lepore: Doing the fictionalizing of our knowledge of history was something we could only have done together. That emerged from our collaboration, that emerged from us giving each other permission sometime, sort of egging each other on. That was absolutely necessary for us to do what we did. As much as the project was different for us because it was writing fiction instead of nonfiction, it was different for us because it was writing together. That said, we did bring different areas of expertise. Jane knows tons about art history and portraiture and biography and economics and financial history and banking and gender history, and I know about race and slavery and have worked a lot on the revolution in Boston lately, and I have this private bad taste in 18th-century fiction. We had slightly relatively different strengths, but I don't' think there was turf stuff at all.
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