Last week, I delivered the introductory lecture for a second year undergraduate module, ‘Doing History’, and for various tedious reasons, I also recently spent some time reading, reflecting on and writing about why I consider history to be valuable. In the process, I conducted an entirely unscientific google trawl, trying to gauge what the general perception of the discipline was. I was struck by the fact that the popular or ‘commonsense’ perception of history encourages a rather limited assessment of its social and intellectual usefulness. What exactly do I mean?
Narratives and stories
Perception: The past provides a seemingly endless supply of rollicking good yarns, from Henry VIII’s tortuous relationship status to Sir Francis Drake’s swashbuckling Caribbean adventures. These are easily converted into good reads.
That’s nice, but it doesn’t make history particularly valuable. Anyway, the best stories are…
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