What Does History Mean?

posted in: Blog, Science | 0
Plate 6: The Sarcophagus: two men conversing to left, another man seated and sleeping to right, an ancient sarcophagus to left decorated with reliefs, a pyramid to right in the background half-hidden by cyprus trees, from 'Les soirées de Rome'


How much do we really know about what happened before we were born? Sure, our parents, grandparents, and maybe some aunts and uncles will regale us with their memories of specific events and times, possibly passing along stories they heard from their relatives which may or may not be true or exactly as they remember them.

Then there are books we’ve read in school and from the library, or for the truly inspired, gleaned from a used book store and written many years ago because all stories change from one version to the next. The Three Little Pigs went from boiling and eating a big bad wolf to chasing him away instead. You wouldn’t know that unless you’d read one of the old versions of the story and not relied upon the modern retelling.

Wait, does this mean the history books we studied in school might also be tampered with? Subtle differences here and there from one edition to the next, until after 100 years what really happened might not be that close to what we’re taught? Maybe. To be honest, I am not going to compare textbooks 100 years apart to see if anything is different, and I doubt most people would either. I’m more concerned with what happened and is happening during my lifetime than chasing around things from way before I was born.

Winston Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.”

If that is true, then what about the viewpoint of the losers? Would they contradict what we’ve learned? Is the “how” and “why” less important than “what we ended up with?”

Without a time machine it’s unlikely we’ll ever know, but since I am an author I’ll challenge you to apply your imagination and extrapolate living long ago. We can read things in books and blogs that may or may not be 100% accurate, but put yourself there in your mind. What clothes would you wear? What would the surroundings look like? How advanced were you for that time period?

This article on Stone Age Seafaring caught my interest and inspired me. We are reaching through time by analyzing ornamental beads to try and figure out how things were back then through logic, reasoning. and an electron microscope.

My mind turns to the wind blowing in my face, a creaking boat, and disk-shaped shells clutched in my fist. Were times better in those days? Did the people then wonder what had really happened long before they were born? Were they smarter than we give them credit, more advanced than our electron microscopes can ever tell us?

I would love to travel there and learn for myself how things truly were before our time, but instead I’ll have to be content dreaming up stories that may or may not be true based on fanciful ideas and a pinch of skepticism. Did aliens influence human development? Were there advanced civilizations whose technology was accidentally–or deliberately–lost, or hoarded from everyone else? Just because it isn’t in our history books doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened if the “victors” didn’t want us to remember.

What do you think? Please comment below.

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