Why History? (3: Stories)

History is a vast repository of human experience and knowledge. But in so doing, it is also a vast repository of something else.

You should study history because of its stories. No other discipline can claim to be as much a chronicle of human endeavour and life than history. There is no tale, novel or epic that can claim to outdo the recorded past, in terms of fascination or even entertainment. Most of them are influenced by the past anyway, to some degree.

Anything you want, anything you like. The grimmest or most heroic of war stories, from the ranks of Caesar to the beaches of Normandy. The political intrigues and machinations of our species, from the Borgia to the Samurai. Our expansions, from the Mongols to the wild west. Our great biographies, from those who first laid down laws to those who tore them down and built again. History is our story, and it is the greatest story of all.

Everything is there. First hand personal accounts of every type, every subject, for those who want to see the human story. The sweeping large-scale narratives of great nations and Empires, which are far more than the moving of lines on a map, for those who want to see the big picture. The critical moments of the past, their contemporary insignificance paling in comparison to the effect they may have had in all our lives, for those who want to be thrilled.

It may not all be non-fiction, but half the fun is in determining what is real, what is not and what may be a pleasant mixture of both.

I may have studied history for a wide variety of reasons, some of which I have yet to expand upon, but I’ll admit this is one of the big ones. I love history, in a way that cannot be explained by its more logical and cold applications. I love reading about the events of the “then”, the thrill of looking at past endeavours of significance, the battles, the journeys, the elections, the things that were.

If you are a writer, or a creator of any kind, you would do well to look into the past for your inspiration. In fact, you simply must, because odds are someone else has already done it, and you seek a way to do it better. I’ve looked backwards when moving forwards on nearly everything I’ve written, fiction or non-fiction. I’m far from the only one, the constant presence of historical drama in our media evidence of the trend of looking into the past to make the entertainment of today.

One of the great lies about history is that it is “boring”. This is simply not true and it is not in the eye of the beholder either. History is too big, too grand, too varied of a story to be labelled so simply. If you think history is boring, you are not looking hard enough. There is something for everyone there.

And we add to that great chronicle every day of our lives.

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