Thursday, March 12, 2015

It's Called Hi-STORY

I've liked history since I was ten years old or so - I remember reading passages from a kid's book about Gettysburg out loud to my distinctly uninterested parents during a particularly long car trip - and it always perplexes me when other people who love stories show little to no interest in history.

I mean on one level I get it: as taught in school, history can be a dull procession of dates and names and trivial facts.  But on another level sometimes I want to scream, But history is a story, just like any other, except it really happened!  And if someone protests that it's a boring story because everything is already set in stone, I'd say, well, the same is true of any book you read (unless you believe that the words on unread pages only appear when you flip to them).

Another issue is that history books can be dry enough to be fire hazards.  I'll concede that point, and merely list two authors whose books are not so: Barbara Tuchman and John Julius Norwich.  There are many other history books and authors that I enjoy, and perhaps I'll write about them at a future date.

One last note for today, and that is that history lessons can come from the most unexpected places.  I've been playing Samurai Warriors 4 with my daughter.  The game is a (frankly ludicrous) beat-'em-up where you pick a general or samurai from the Sengoku Jidai period of Japanese history and fight your way through entire armies.  But although the action is in no way accurate, the history is a very close representation of what may have really happened.  More than once after playing the game, I've been struck by the ludicrousness of a particular event - only to discover on Wikipedia that that may have been how things truly went down.

I've long searched for a good (English) book about this period of Japanese history, only to be continually frustrated.  It's an oddity of our times that the solution came in the form of a video game and the Internet.

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