From The Fishbowl

Scribbles about stuff

It’s A Mystery


This post is going to be about something that I’ve always had a mild interest in. Because it is late, I am not tired, and I have nothing better to do. Well, I probably do have better things to do, but I can’t be arsed to do them. That topic is…

History! Random, I know. But the more I’ve been looking back on my life recently, the more I realised that I should have done a history degree. Too late to do anything about it now. I guess I could start another degree but I’m already 10 grand in debt. Don’t really need any more.

I wish I’d come to that realisation earlier. As it was I sort of fell into a degree in creative writing and media studies (2:1, thanks for asking). I wanted to do media because it was the thing I was best at during my A Levels. Turns out studying it at degree level is about a billion times more complex, much less fun and I was a bit rubbish at it. I only took creative writing because I needed another class to fill the timetable, but it soon became my de facto ‘number one’ (although I was equally weighted between it and media). I even did my dissertation in it. A Perfect Endeavour, which you can find in Not Quite Normal (incidentally 50% off this week, check my Twitter for details because I can’t be bothered to repeat myself).

So why didn’t I do history? I mean, it would have been a perfect second option to media. Well not perfect, it’s not like they go together like peanut butter and jelly (although I can only assume they go together because I dislike peanut butter and am not American…), but it would’ve plugged the gap I needed. Although then I never would have written so much. Weird how things work out.

I didn’t do history because I got bored of it at college.

Now, I’ve always found it to be incredibly interesting and I still do, of course. But we have a pre-occupation in the UK when it comes to learning history. Because you learn a lot about World War II.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, it’s almost certainly the event that has had the most impact on the shape of the world since 1945. But when you learn about it every year for the best part of 10 years? Yeah, I kind of got bored.

The best example is how my History A Level panned out. There were three modules each year, across two years of course, each weighted equally.

First year: The Russian Revolution(s) – not directly related to WW2 since the module covered approximately from 1890-1917, but undoubtedly had a huge impact on the War and acted as a precursor to another module. Fascist Italy – Hitler picked up a lot of ideas from Mussolini and, obviously, was a major ally to Nazi Germany in the War (point of disclosure: I really loved this module, to be fair – Mussolini, despite being a clearly evil man, is my favourite ‘character’ from history). And German Foreign Policy from 1930-1939 – if you need me to tell you how this is related to World War II well, God help you.

Second year: Life in Nazi Germany – see my last point. Russia Under Stalin – Stalin, of course, being a major player in WW2 and beyond (it still fascinates me that the Soviets had a pact with the Nazis pre-war. That was always going to work…). And finally, The British Empire, from 1850-1950(ish) – Again, the link is pretty obvious.

So basically, I spent two years learning about World War II. And I had had enough. I didn’t even look at history courses because I’d been put off so much. I want to just make clear that there was nothing wrong with the education. In fact, I had one particularly fantastic history teacher at college – one of those teachers that leaves such an impact on you that I’m unlikely to forget him – but the topics just really turned me off.

But there’s so much more to history than the War. I’ve personally always had a huge interest in American history. I guess I find it fascinating that one of this planet’s youngest countries has grown into undoubtedly the most important in the world. The Romans have always interested me too – although Roman history is something of an obsession in the British curriculum as well, especially at Primary level – but there’s quite a lot that I’m interested in that I barely know anything about. Like Japan. Why I find that interesting is because in terms of its location, size and nature as an island, has a lot of similarities to Britain. But whereas Britain took onboard a lot of influences from the continent and beyond (not least in our language), Japan has traditionally always been very isolationist and solitary. I have no real idea why that is, although I’d love to find out.

There’s so much to learn about this world and so little time to learn it. I guess I just wish I’d spent a few more of my years doing that, rather than faffing around writing essays on postmodernism and stories that no-one reads. I guess I wish I’d realised this passion in myself sooner.

I don’t want to end on a downer – it was fun writing that. Maybe I should do a bit more amateur history work. It’s not like there aren’t enough books and websites. Yes. Yes, I will do that. Thank you, random midnight blog post.

And thanks, as ever for reading.

(Aside: if anyone has read any particularly fascinating history books – but preferably not about World War II, please – do get in touch. Any and all ideas greatly appreciated.)

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