History.

I’ve been wanting to write a post about history for quite some time. But I can’t.

History is such a broad subject that everyone who loves it is generally forced to pick a particular period which interests them, and focus on that. And I confess, I prefer some periods to others; I have a particular liking for the American Revolution and World War I. It was one of these that I was hoping to write a post about.

But this, in many ways, goes against what I love about History in the first place. What is so wonderful about History is the Grand, almost Cosmic sweep one feels when studying it. So awesome is the scope, so tremendous is the scale, that it is frankly impossible for anyone to fully comprehend. The only field which can compare is Astronomy–and truly, what is Astronomy but simply the ultimate in History?

For this reason, it is impossible for me to write cogently on the subject. For me, it’s too broad a field to really settle down and just write something coherent about a specific time period. I find that I am always distracted by other times; other epochs, and of course, other people. There is something poetic about history that defies clinical, scholarly writing.

In the novel Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres, there’s a part where one of the characters is trying to finish writing the history of the Greek island of Cephallonia that was started by her late father. She works on it so much, and works with so many scholars that, as de Bernieres writes:

 “…she began to feel in danger of finishing up by writing a ‘Universal History of the Entire World’, because everything connected to everything else in the most elaborate, devious, and elegant ways.”

This is how I feel when I try to write about history. It is so overwhelming that it is hard to put into words, it can only be experienced viscerally.

1 Comment

  1. I taught history for 27 years and wrote an historical novel. It's been the academic love of my life. It's the only way to make our lives today make sense and figure out what's going to happen in the future.

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