This weekend’s question is inspired by an essay at the Guardian recently by Martin Kettle which began thusly:
Earlier this year, one of my children made a confession. He had reached adult life knowing almost nothing about the English civil war. Could I recommend him a book on the subject? I could, and I did. And a few months later, I saw that the Hampstead theatre in north London was putting on a Howard Brenton play, 55 Days, about the events leading up to the execution of Charles I. So we went to that too. As we were leaving the theatre we talked about Oliver Cromwell and the dramas and dilemmas of 1648-9. And my son said: “I don’t think any of my school friends know anything about the civil war. But everyone in this country ought to know about it. They all ought to see that play.”
And Kettle goes on to discuss how a lack of general knowledge about English history has had a negative impact on British culture. Which is a notion I can neither agree with or disagree with, though it has a ring of truth and I would agree about the same thing being said about the United States.
But that’s not quite what I want to talk about. This is:
Which bits of history do you feel you should know more about?
If you’d like to connect your lack of knowledge to a larger cultural decline, feel free. But I’d really just like for us to geek out on history and the bits that interest us most.
I wish I could know more about a part of human history that we probably cannot know much more about: What was human life like in prehistory, before we had writing and before we could record much? I love the Clan of the Cave Bear series of novels because, in spite of some of their problems, they create a compelling and plausible re-creation of Ice Age human civilization.
As for those parts of history that we do know lots about and I’ve simply been negligent in learning about, I’d like to learn more about ancient Greece and Rome. I feel like I have only the slightest grasp of those eras and their influence on our modern civilization.
(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)