Will there be any history left?

When I think about my trip to Ightham Mote the other day, part of it’s attraction was how they didn’t definitely know who’d built it, they didn’t definitely know if Henry VI had visited, they thought that probably the new chapel was built as a guest bedroom.

They had done some cool dendochronology thing where they had managed to work out the date of origin for each part of building. There were lots of theories about when the ceiling in the new chapel had been built and painted. Had it been built for another building? A ceremonial outdoor thing for the king perhaps? But the exact same proportions as the roof in the room at Ightham Mote? They worked out eventually it had been built for the room and painted in situ.

There was a lot of mystery, a lot of research. I often wished, when reading history books, that we knew exactly what had happened, exactly what kind of people they were, exactly what they were thinking. But I also recognised that if I did know all those things, the mystery and intrigue would be gone. I’d probably go, “I wish I knew what they were really thinking at that moment? O, here it is. She was a bit bored. Ok, then. Ummm.”

And this is my worry. Are we making our history boring by recording everything? There’s no mystery. If someone in a few hundred years wanted to know what the World Famous Writer/Baker/Farmer Laura Maisey was thinking about at 7:26am on September 24, 2013, it’s all here. I’m going on about making history boring.

The stuff that’s most interesting for me in Ham House is the stuff that they don’t know for definite yet or the stuff that has numerous different stories attached to it.

And there’s Time Team to think about too. I mean, what will Baldrick do if he doesn’t need to dig sections of soil up anymore? People will have been rabbiting on about their new houses and gardens and there will be no need to try and establish where the outside walls of the castle were anymore. He’ll be able to just Google it.

Is that ok? That we are turning future historians into Google lovers? Maybe we should kill the internet briefly in a hundred years or so and start afresh, erasing everything and so creating some mystery for the poor bored historians of the year 2500?

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rambler5319 on September 24, 2013 at 07:54

    Those feelings you are describing are really why historical novels are so popular. They take facts which are known for definite and then weave a story around them. Some of the writers’ ideas might be true but we’ll never know. You can just enjoy the story as a story as long as you don’t believe everything in it is fact.
    In the future there may be less need for that because, as you say, so much more is recorded but there will still be uncertainties which you can think about. Perhaps too it will simply generate more interest in the older stuff where there is more scope to let your thoughts wander.
    Much of history, in that area, is about opinion and how convincingly you present your case because we can never know exactly.

    Reply

  2. History is a bag full of mystery, for instance who was King Arthur? Everyone has their theory, they argue, but nobody can be certain. History will always be a source of mystery regardless of Google.

    Reply

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