History Can Tell Us a Lot About Right Now.
The more I delve into history, through my studies, and in my own reading, I am continually amazed at the relevance of it to current affairs. It is like we, as a race, are fated to repeat ourselves. Some do say, that there are only a finite number of stories out there and our worlds are interwoven with these narratives. Language is a symbolic representation of recounted events and we reorder these events to make sense of them; thus creating a story.
It might be your story, involving how you were raised, what your parents were like, when you met your life partner, when you separated from him or her, maybe you didn’t, having children or not, getting older and so on. Alternatively, it may be the story of the Second World War, who started it, who suffered, who was victorious and who was defeated, what were the ramifications. Each story will not be an exact record of events; it will be a version of selected events ordered according to the interpreter. There is no truth, no unquestionable objective reality, in our stories and the stories from history; there is only an interpretation of events.
Autobiography is no longer, really, considered to be non-fiction, likewise memoires, they are the stories we tell others about ourselves and aspects of our lives. As readers and human beings, generally, we love to read stories; to share a journey. The fact that these stories are not exact recordings of lives in real time does not bother us; we prefer the director’s cut, as it is usually far more interesting. Most of us tell stories about ourselves, at various times, recounting stressful events from the safe shores of memory. Often terrible, climactic occurrences become hilarious anecdotes when shared with family and friends. Our stories, when told, become a release valve for escaping pressure; anxieties loosen their hold.
History’s identities are most often long dead and so their stories cannot ease their psychic burdens, but culturally they can have a similar affect upon us, their descendants. Which is why it is important that we continue to seek to unravel the events of the past, using technologies and methodologies to inch ever closer to some approximation of what actually occurred. History is most often told by the victors and the generations that come after them. It is their version of events we are handed down and told, “it is the gospel truth.” Later comes the processes of revisionism and historians are most often at the forefront of that. Then the new views may filter into the arts, as in the case of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and how we now see Thomas More.
We love to learn things from stories, as the King James Bible proves, when all those allegorical stories were translated into the King ’s English by scholars and poets from Oxford and Cambridge; borrowing heavily from Tyndale’s earlier masterly effort, for which he was burned alive for.
My new book of Essays on Ancient History is now available on Amazon Kindle for very little money. If you have an interest in the stories which underpin our lives, the ancient events from the Greek, Roman and Hebrew worlds, I recommend you read it.