Friday, October 26, 2012

Does History Comfort Us?

If history is comforting, writes an anonymous historian, it's probably not very good history.

History is meant to make you uncomfortable. Clio, the muse of history, is like Jesus: she brings not peace but a sword. She will make you rethink everything you think you know; everything you think you hold dear; she will make you question everything. Everything you were brought up with; everything you thought natural. She’s not here to wrap you in cotton wool and say ‘there, there’ everything is just how it’s supposed to be. She’s not there to bring succour to your view of your country, or smooth over the bad stuff that it did, or to soothe your conscience about the massacres perpetuated in the name of your religion, or the slaughter committed by people who at least claimed to share your political beliefs. She’s there to make you uneasy. She’s there to stop you from falling victim to her evil twin, Myth. In a sense I want to free you from feeling like the past controls us; that we have to base our identities in the present upon myths. That means we don’t have to feel guilty or apologise, either – just to be aware; to understand.

This historian teaches medieval history; an example from WW2 Indiana tomorrow.

"Professor Grumpy's Historical Manifesto," Historian on the Edge, posted 12 October 2012 ( : accessed 25 October 2012).

Harold Henderson, "Does History Comfort Us?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 26 October 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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