Thursday, 28 February 2013

On History

Mrs Lintott: Now. How do you define history, Mr Rudge?
Rudge: Can I speak freely, Miss? Without being hit?
Mrs Lintott: I will protect you.
Rudge: How do I define history? It's just one f**kin' thing after another.
From Alan Bennett's "The History Boys"

I'm really not sure where this picture is from- I've had this on my computer for years, so if you know, give me a shout!

I think I've mentioned before that I studied history at university.

As such, I am a full on history nerd. Give me a book about history (novel, or non fiction), and you've got me hooked. 

However, I know it's a proper marmite subject- people either adore it, like me, or find it deathly dull and dropped it at the first possible opportunity. I actually blame schools for a lot of this-  there is often a lot of focus on high politics (which can be incredibly dry), and the same subjects are often studied over and over- namely the World Wars, Hitler and Henry's (VII and particularly VIII), and maybe Stalin if your school fancied being a bit different (like mine. Though I'm not complaining, I got a trip to Russia out of it!!)

Some history students/ historians get very cross at historical novels, because very often they aren't particularly historically accurate, but in my opinion, if they get a few people looking into the actual historical events that the novel is based on, then that's fantastic.

So this is my attempt at introducing you all to some different parts of history, in the form of historical novels and stuff. Call me ridiculous, but I like learning random facts, and hopefully they might introduce you to looking up some other history related stuff, and hopefully you'll enjoy this!!

If I Laugh was another of my sources for my dissertation. It's a memoir, written by a British journalist caught up in the Exode. My copy is full of underlines, and I'm so excited to go back an read it again now I can without feeling sick about my dissertation. (yes I'm aware this is about WW2. It's allowed because it's that brilliant.) For some criminal reason this is actually out of print, but there are some copies floating around on Amazon!

 The History Boys is amazing. Like seriously brilliantly funny. I've seen the play twice, and own the film- and I think I even wrote in my UCAS application. Yeah, I'm that cool. If you haven't seen it, it's about a group of history students who are preparing for university entrance exams, and it is amazing. GO AND WATCH IT NOW.

I actually met Adeline Yen Mah at a book fair when I was about thirteen. She is a seriously incredible woman, and I wept at this book. Falling Leaves is about a Chinese girl/woman, whose mother dies when she is born, and is therefore considered bad luck by her family. So beautifully written, and heartbreaking without being a "I had a terrible childhood, woe is me" type book. And some of the information about Chinese history is just fascinating, particularly the stuff about foot-binding.

Soz about the dodgy picture...

And finally, The Odyssey. I love Ancient Greek history, and studied some ancient history in my first year- it's so interesting. For example, did you know that this entire book would have been memorised by a blind bard, who would have wandered around telling people the story at feasts and stuff? That's why almost everything has an epithet- to remind people of what certain things are. Count how many "rosy-fingered dawn"s there are. But if you can't be bothered to read it, watch O Brother Where Art Thou- it's based on it!

So, now I've left you with that lovely lot, I'm off to watch The History Boys for the millionth time.


  1. You study history?! Me too! What subjects do you take? I personally love more modern, but I did a bit of archaeology too so love me a bit of Homer!

    E x

    1. Do you really!? That's so cool! I did study history- I graduated from uni last July (sob sob). I mostly studied French history, but also did a bit of ancient history in first year (yup, gotta love Homer!), British Civil Wars, approaches to history (historiography... BLAH!), the miliary orders, and "Biography and German History" (i.e. lots of stuff about Bismarck and Goebbels!!) How about you lovely? xx

  2. I did history the whole way through my school education and loved it, especially 20th century stuff like Stalin. What a horrible man. I enjoyed the history boys film too! And I remember reading the adeline yen mah books (did you read Chinese Cinderella as well?) when I was younger - must have been very inspiring to meet her! How did that come about? X x ps. I replied to your lovely comment over on my blog :)

    1. I found Russian history SO interesting in school- Stalin really was awful, wasn't he?! I did also read Chinese Cinderella, I loved that too!! She is such an incredible lady- it came about because she was speaking at a book festival, and my father was also really interested in her books- so we drove down together and managed to meet her at the end- she signed my books and everything! :) x


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