Jane here, late with my blog because yesterday we had family staying, more relatives visiting, and a barbecue which took up most of the day. It was great. But then came the clearing-up, mountains of it.
While I battled with the debris I thought – not for the first time – that before the advent of detergents and constant hot water, not to mention dishwashers, cleaning up dishes and cooking utensils after meals must have been a horrible job, to be suffered several times a day. Of course wealthy people had servants or, in ancient times, slaves to see to all the domestic chores, so the mistresses and masters of a house didn’t actually have to soil their lily-white hands. But for most people…well, if I ever fulfill my ambition of travelling back in time, I’m going to make sure I end up among the rich!
There have been some interesting reflections lately, from
Lady Killers and others, about why people say they “don’t like history.” I can’t
believe that anyone really DOES NOT like history; that’s like saying “I don’t like
animals” because you were once bitten by a dog, or chased by a cow. But people
associate “history” with what they were taught at school, and sadly it often
wasn’t taught well. Even when there were good and enthusiastic
teachers, the focus was on the great public events of the past, the deeds of kings,
the battles and religious upheavals and such. I myself found these interesting
because I had good teachers, so I didn’t just have to memorise lists and dates;
but the crucial thing is that I was taught other aspects of history too – something
of how ordinary people lived from day to day. That’s what
most people find fascinating, and when people say they didn't enjoy their school history lessons, it's a million to one bet that people's everyday lives were not on the syllabus.
Nowadays, thank goodness, the focus has changed, and anyhow there are more ways to learn about the past than at school. Through history channels on tv, you can find out a lot about daily life in bygone centuries. Some museums are good at this too – the Museum of London has reconstructions of streets and houses from Roman Londinium, with people in Roman dress explaining (in English!) what their lives would be like The Jorvik Centre in York famously lets us see inside replica Viking houses, and makes sure we also catch the unpleasant whiff of drains as we pass by.
Let’s have more of this, I say. Capture the interest of youngsters
in how their ancestors lived, the sights and sounds and smells of life without electricity,
without printed books; even without – heaven help us – mobile phones and computers!
Then with luck we may also get them to think about the public affairs, from how
their country’s government evolved, to how and why their nation gets along with
other nations on the planet. These are important too, because you can’t fully understand
the present state of things without some knowledge of the past.
But let's start small and everyday. To quote an old song: “Get right down to the real nitty gritty.”