Welcome to First Night History!
As my subtitle asks, how can we improve our future if we don’t understand the past. I have always been passionate about history partly, I suspect, because of my desire to find out why my parents were as they were, which was problematic! I had the good fortune to be able to look at certain family documents and ephemera and my curiosity increased. Why did my great-grandmother die in her 40s? Why did we come over with William the Conqueror? What kind of secret work did my Italian-speaking great-aunt do during WWII? Does madness run in the family or, as Cary Grant’s character says in Arsenic and Old Lace, ‘practically gallops’? Did any of my ancestors have a fondness for architecture? Were there any other actors in the past?
In my teens, I became obsessed by The Great War after poring over some of the letters written from the trenches by my great-uncle and grandfather. I went on to read all the usual suspects — Robert Graves’ Good-bye to All That, Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Edward Thomas and many more.
Although my History teacher at school was far from inspiring, I developed a penchant for the Tudors and Elizabethans. As I grew older, while still fascinated by ‘Kings and Queens’ — a major factor in the teaching of History during the 1960s and ’70s — it was the story of the man or woman on the ‘Clapham Omnibus‘, rather than our ‘leaders’, that began to hold my attention. I wanted to know how my generation had been influenced by the circumstances of our forebears.
The posts you will find here are, predominantly, re-blogs. If you have any suggestions on areas of the past that you would like to see covered, please let me know by leaving a comment below.
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