On history

I took first year Modern History this semester, as a kind of "fill in the gaps" thing for my degree. And like other ‘accidental’ subjects I’ve taken (linguistics) I really enjoyed it.

I only wish that high school history hadn’t been so piecemeal. I have vague recollections of learning about Gallipoli without understanding what World War I was about, of learning about JFK (and my mother lent me the findings of the Warren Commission) without learning about the 60s, or about the US. I wish there had been social history, and Big Picture history. Instead, we got snapshot history.

No wonder kids hate learning about the Australian explorers. There’s no maps given out to show where they went, no idea of the conditions they lived under, or the size of their cities, or whether they needed more land for agriculture, and nothing said about the colonial mentality.

We saw a map of Europe in 1750, and almost nothing, save England, was the same. I wish I’d seen that years ago. But then, I can’t remember whether or not I knew what a map of Europe looked like before I was thirteen or so. And I don’t know if my contemporaries would have recognised one either.

Our exam question is about how the ideals of the Enlightenment and the horror of World War I are tied together. I wish I’d had to answer questions like that at school.