On History…again

 Thanksgiving Day my granddaughter Joy and I discussed her college classes.  Joy is finishing her first semester at  Virginia Tech where she is majoring in Agricultural Science and agribusiness.  As part of her Liberal Arts program, she took a course on micro economics this fall and is taking another on macro economics in the spring.  She also took a course I would describe as political science.  Now this might sound dull if you are not into these topics.  However, what caught my attention is that Joy had realized this past semester that to understand current conditions in a country, one must understand its history.

“I never realized that to understand current events, you needed to understand history,” she said.  This warmed my heart as history and demography are my subject areas for two different MA degrees.


Her revaluation led me to explain (again) how history, told from many perspectives by historians who sometimes disagree helps to inform.  My forte is the economic and political history of Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For example, I know more about the European Union and the Bretton Woods agreement than the various economic depressions the US suffered following the Civil War in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

I had courses which exposed me to the historical literature of the Civil War and Gilded Age in America and all my undergraduate history classes were in American History. But after about 1800 and the rise of the Industrial Age, the history of the world converges. In other words, to understand the times you must understand textile manufacture and the cotton trade.


I always have more than one book in the pipeline, but lately, I have been reading a chapter a day of Antony Beevor’s The Second World War (interspersed with a history on Lincoln).

The Beevor book has been a long slog and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone but the  student of WWII. I am on page 600+ (Kindle version) and almost to VE day. The worst battles of the Pacific where my FIL was in 1944 and 1945…Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Peleliu, are yet to come in this 900 page book. I’m glad I read the book, however, and recommend it to anyone who wonders about their parents and grandparents and their attitudes towards others. 

Joy on the left—>

Studies show most folks don’t read history critically, especially young people who get their information from Saturday Night Live and its ilk.  but it isn’t just young people. When did you last read a real history book?



10 thoughts on “On History…again

  1. I guess you wouldn’t consider “11/22/63” by Stephen King a history book. How about “Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden” by Peter Bergen? Before that (during the summer) I read Barbara Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror” which I liked a lot. As you can see, I don’t have much focus to my reading. I read McCullough’s “1776” a few years ago. Since I visited Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago, now I want to read “Benjamin Franklin” by Walter Isaacson.


  2. Good for you that you enjoy reading history books. I never could get excited about them, though. I haven’t touched my Kindle in over a month. Just too busy recovering from the stomach flu acquired during my 2 week trip to India.


  3. Joy appears to be treading in her grandma’s footsteps, which means that you two have a lot to talk about. well done!

    I am sure I have told you before that my interest is European Medieval History and modern history leaves me pretty unmoved. Of course, one must know the basics, but that’s as far as I’ll go.

    I have two historian friends who are experts in a tiny field of a hundred years or less and write learned books about their periods. They profess to know little about any other periods.


    • One does tend to focus on eras of interest. I have mostly read political economy type history of the industrial age, and that includes war..unfortunately. I love the modern age but also read much paleoanthropology. Always interested in the European Medieval History, but don’t read much of it these days although I was a Tudor fanatic for a while.


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