“How do I define History? Its’ just one fucking thing after another”

Hey friends,

I feel like the Blog hub is just of my random thoughts, so here is another one.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to the lecture tomorrow so I know that I am going to have missed so much, but I hope that what i have gotten from my reading, is good enough.

I want to start off by saying that when I saw this book for the first time, I was apprehensive and nervous that it would be a boring philosophical book that I would loath, but instead I found a very well laid out, and thought provoking book.

I have discovered that I enjoyed reading books about history, not fictitious but actually examining it. Last year I read The Rape of Nanjing and all I can say is that I was blown away by it.

My one criticism with this book was that the back teaser didn’t actually describe what the book was about. Although both the Alamo and the Holocaust were aspects of this book, it was Haiti that was the prime example so I felt that should’ve been touched on. But whatever.

I think for this blog I will post some of my favorite quotes and discuss.

1) One will not castigate long-dead writers for using the words of their time or for not sharing ideological views that we now take for granted. (82)

For the last few years I have been attempting to make this argument and finally Trouillot made it clear. Oftentimes, we try to bring the past into the present, but it doesn’t work. It may still be relevant, but we shouldn’t judge the writer based on our own ideals. Take Shakespeare and how people call him anti-Semitic because of his portrayal of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Sure it is awful how Shylock is made fun or and made to be the villain, but that was the time period in which he wrote. Everyone was like that.

2) The Marseillaise was also a cry against ‘slavery’ (86)

This quote really made me think about our society and how we are all enslaved by something. Electronics, other people, ourselves. I know I am enslaved in trying to be the ‘best’ and outdoing others. I get so wrapped up in myself that i lose sight of what really matters. It also makes me think that the world will never allow us to escape the bonds of something – we will never be truly free!

3) Survivors carry history on themselves (149)

This quote is referencing the Holocaust (Shoah) and Slavery in America and instantly I thought of one of the most interesting dialogues in my favorite play The History Boys By Alan Bennet (P.S read it and be prepared to laugh, cry and die). They are having a discussion about whether the Holocaust should be taught in schools and how the extermination camps are now hosts to tourist groups and people taking group photos in front of the sleeping barracks and getting sodas next to the gas chambers and the jewish student, Posner says something along the lines that “You haven’t lost your family in it” For him, the Shoah is something very really and pertinent. He didn’t survive it, but the wounds of his family will always plague him. The teacher in response says

“But this is History. Distance yourselves. Our perspective on the past alters. Looking back, immediately in front of us is dead ground. We don’t see it, and because we don’t see it this means that there is no period so remote as the recent past. And one of the historian’s jobs is to anticipate what our perspective of that period will be… even on the Holocaust.” 

As always, I have run out of things to discuss. I really enjoyed this book and it was very thought provoking. Looking forward to seeing what the essay topics are.

some great quotes about history to think of

1) Headmaster: There’s a vacancy in history.

Tom Irwin: [Thoughtfully] That’s very true.

Headmaster: In the school.

Tom Irwin: Ah.

2) Mrs. Lintott: History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.

3)Mrs. Lintott: The smallest of incidents… the junction of a dizzying range of alternatives… any one of which could have had a different outcome.


2 thoughts on ““How do I define History? Its’ just one fucking thing after another”

  1. Great post, Seamus! I haven’t heard of The History Boys, but I will check it out. Maybe it would even be good for Arts One sometime! The quotes are fantastic. My favourite is maybe the third one, because it suggests to me how complex the workings of human events are, how unpredictable and messy, and yet when we tell histories we make them (perhaps necessarily) more simple. Of course, we couldn’t just include all the messiness and have it make sense, so we have to leave things out. But when we look at the present and the future we can realize how artificial that is because these are clearly not so straightforward; things don’t move in a nice story arc until we create that arc looking back. History seems fixed because it appears that it is no longer in process, while the present and future are.

    But then one of Trouillot’s points is that even what seems “past” is not fully past insofar as what we take it to be changes with interpretations and narrations that may be repeated, reworked in various “presents” due to what people are concerned about at those times. So really, one might say that the past is still in process too.

  2. Thanks for the thoughts.
    I really enjoyed this book because I thought it was a nice balance of History, literature and yes, philosophy. I never felt like Trouillot was TRYING to convince me of his opinions, but rather we were having a conversation (with me being silent)
    History Boys is my go to database for epic quotes!

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