I have encountered far too many people who dislike history because they understood is as an endless line of names, dates, and distant events. Information memorized in class, regurgitated on exams, and then forgotten. When understood that way, history can be very dull.
I think history is nothing more or less than the preservation of the tales of those who have come before us. A series of stories intertwined and connected from which we can draw understand (and entertainment… such entertainment).
Humans are human. With all the insecurities, egos, loves, rivalries, mistakes, and questions that go with that. Our understandings of the world around us has changed through the centuries but there is still an innate humaness about us.
When I approach history it is with the eye of a storyteller. I look for things that can connect me to the past, that can help me to better understand the people who lived in times so different than my own. These are people who lived, loved, laughed, and cried. Their trappings may have been different, but they are still people living out the stories of their lives.
I try to think about historical figure as the real people they were. Taking them outside of their moments of being HISTORICAL FIGURES and letting them be people, with friends, family, jobs and dreams. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to encounter them in a moment when they are just them.
I love to place myself into history; when I was little I would try to think about what it was like to be traveling the Oregon Trail. Often when I visit historic sites and homes I imagine myself into the past of that location. So many times I’ve been on a tour of a historic home when the guide would make a passing mention of “the children of the house,” and whatever follows is lost because I am trying to think about those children — how did they live in this home? What games did they play? What stories did they tell?
We each carry with us our own stories, and the experiences of those who came before us are, truly, no different than that. They are not simply names and actions tied to dates, but people with opinions, dreams, and thoughts that lived and acted in the world. They had their own stories to tell (and their own stories they probably didn’t want told), and allowing ourselves to remember that makes history so much richer — and so much more powerful.