* History Today: but what about history tomorrow - or in one thousand or ten thousand years' time?
In the film Big, Tom Hanks played a little boy who, trapped inside a grown man's body, had a brilliant career as a toy designer. One of his inventions was a computer which gave children the power to write and re-write their own versions of a story under a stock strip of vivid images. History has always been like the Big machine, clicking out colliding perceptions of the same events. When I was a child, my favourite book was Pages glorieuses de l'armee francaise because it filled familiar wars with exciting battles of which the writers of my English and Spanish books seemed never to have heard. Even within a single country or culture, the circumstances and needs of the time of writing become as much a part of the story as the episodes narrated and the people described.
Like the machine, history lets you write almost any number of different stories to fit the evidence. More than that, the evidence itself seems to look different to every eye, or even to each eye with every fresh look. History mutates according to a law of relativity. Like time and space measured at high speeds - or like an experiment of which the observer forms part - it shifts as you look at it, according to the angle of approach. It twists and coils into unexpected shapes: suddenly, rapidly, continuously, like a snake darting between stones.
Thanks to a healthy Pyrrhonist revival, this millennium is twitching to a close amid doubts about whether an objectively true version of the past even exists to be …