The musings of Mr Monkeysized


History: it’s what we are, if only we had the patience to wait for it by monkeysized
February 11, 2010, 23:31
Filed under: Uncategorized

I imagine I’ll come back to history a lot on this blog. There are few things that mark us out as imbecilic as the way we treat history as a source of stories, a set of ‘lessons’, but not as something that we are part of in our journey into dust.

If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good podcast. The Witness series on BBC World Service is terrific. It’s done within their news operation, which makes me fear for how long (on which managerial whim) it’ll survive, as it’s really a history programme that simply focuses on the human story within events.

Choice recent moments include the Ethiopian Falasha Jews who were airlifted to Israel (‘we were amazed the people there were white!’) and then sat in a lift as it rode up and down for hours, confused by the changes whenever the doors open (how monkeysized to point this out – let’s not take it for granted…); the American GI who stole a book from Hitler and sees himself as part of the glorious, wider sweep of history; and the journalist Jon Swain’s kidnap in Ethiopia (Jon Swain was also in The Killing Fields, so he knows about being ordered about by a young chap with an AK47).

Great programme making, great podcasts, and a fabulously monkeysized reminder that people are at the heart of history, and as history turns, those lives churn.

I also heard a podcast from the History Network today. Now they can be rather dull – essays being read out complete with bad edits – but this was very good indeed. Much was because of the subject matter, The Fall of Constantinople, at a crucial point in world history. The Ottomans swept into their European foothold, the last Roman emperor perished, and guns played one of their first large scale roles in a campaign.

But at their heart was a gruesome story. People were slaughtered, worlds were changed with the wholesale wrecking of lives and the over-throwing of centuries of achievement. If that happens now, the focus is slightly less softer.

The lesson? People are at the heart of history. And that includes us. And context matters. There’s more to say, and this is skin deep. So goodnight for now.

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