History isn’t made, it’s written.
History is only made if you do something worth writing about – something worth remembering. History doesn’t even need to be globally remarkable. Local events get attention and will be remembered in some way for as long as someone records, collects and stores the news.
History is always a story. It’s not always a story about people, but there is always a narrative element when the past is retold. It’s sad when kids are bored with history. It means someone isn’t telling the story well. History is the story of change and even though it’s non-fiction, there is still imagination and creativity.
Take a look at some of the best ways that history is recounted.
Sweep of History
The bird’s eye view of history can be dizzying. A handful of people have attempted to tackle the telling in one volume. Often you see the stories of a society through the ages, such as the story of the ancient Egyptians. But the history of nature is popular too, such as the story of the Amazon rain-forest.
History can be broken down into time periods too. Such as “The Century,” by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster. It’s a chronological summation of all the major events in the Twentieth Century.
Formation and Demise
History at it’s simplest is the story of beginnings and/or ends. We are all curious about beginnings. Where did we come from? How was the computer created?
Maybe the story being told needs to answer, “Why is our country this way?” Then you would want to look at beginnings: who were the founders and what were their motives? Sometimes it helps to look at ends, “How slavery ended.”
But context is very important, and many times, when you want to fully understand a person, an outcome, or a current condition, you need to look at the full picture from beginning to end, such as “The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici.”
Natural disasters, brave rescues, celestial displays, dramatic moments that are unique and help guide the direction of a person’s life, a culture, or the sudden shift of a landmass are worth writing and reading about.
They are stories of success, tragedy, victory, error, discovery, and loss that zoom in to a single moment rather than a time period.
Such as, “The Bounty,” by Caroline Alexander, who looks deeper into the mutiny aboard the HMS Bounty in 1789 to see if we haven’t misunderstood what really happened when the crew left their captain adrift at sea.
The most interesting history will look at the intersection of multiple lives and the impact their meeting had on the world. Sometimes it’s desirable to take a slice of time that was defining for a historical personality and analyze it to better understand where we personally stand in life.
Full length biographies are the formation and demise of one person’s life. The chronological telling of their life puts their choices and behaviours into perspective, adding value to their life’s accomplishments, such as “Epic Wanderer,” by D’Arcy Jenish. This is a biography of David Thompson and how he mapped much of the west during Canada’s formation.
Pulling together the emperors of Rome, or the first computers of the twentieth century, or the women who fought for equal rights in various countries will help us see patterns and understand the evolution of an ideology or society. Such as “Great Rulers of History.” It’s a biographical dictionary of monarchs, emperors, and nobility that had the most impact on the development of civilization.
With change comes conflict. The greatest conflicts have been the most costly, but they’ve also deeply defined us. Chronicling those conflicts, understanding what initiated them, how they were carried out, and how they were resolved, should ideally help us to avoid similar conflicts.
War stories are captivating because of the high stakes and grand scopes, but they should always be used as sign posts of what attitudes and choices to avoid so that the conflicts don’t perpetuate. War stories also show us the best and worst of ourselves. Seeing the extremes can be sobering and should demonstrate that even though the worst is possible, so is the absolute best.