This article was originally published on my WordPress blog – January 2014.
The first day of the New Year seems as good a time as any to start a new blog. The old saying goes ‘out with the old, in with the new’, but it’s not quite appropriate for a blog that will be mostly concerned with history in one way or another – hence the title.
There’s a common misperception that all people interested in history must somehow want to live in the past, but this just isn’t true. The past might be an interesting place to visit, but in most cases you wouldn’t want to live there. The chances are that you would end up trudging behind a plough, washing clothes in a stream or wondering how on earth you can make the food last over the winter. To say nothing of the drains, if you’re lucky enough to have any…
To many people, the study of the past has no relevance to the present. I don’t agree. Understanding history is an important way of trying to understand our own times, from current debates over nationhood, the economy and international politics to the lives of individual people. My surname, for example, is Irish, but I am English and grew up in rural Hertfordshire. Family history explains this to a degree, but to appreciate it fully you need to look at the great waves of emigration from Ireland in the 19th century, and why those took place.
History is a part of all our lives. In its enormous variety, it is also undeniably fascinating. As I write this, there are cars slooshing past in the wet street outside. They are travelling along the line of a Roman road.