Mr. E's Blog

Historical curiosities and pedagogical thoughts.

"History is boring."

Machu Picchu

You are wrong.

History is life. It's the cumulative story of a species that can wield pure imagination against reality and, on occasion, win. It is the sum of the human experience, the grave tragedy and the euphoric victory of living on the thin crust of this Earth. History is the words and thoughts of every person since the first tick of time. 

No, we don't have the whole story yet. No, we don't know every little detail. But millions of people are putting it together as they make their own histories every single day.

How can you be bored?

The trick is finding what you're interested in. Everyone has a question. Everyone has a journey. Everyone has a problem they are stuck on, a challenge they struggle to overcome, a passion that they draw breath for. 

There were more before you. And there will be more after you.

Someone, "back then," asked the same questions as you. They ate food, they drank water, their hands made things out of nothing, just like yours do. They mulled over similar problems, felt similar feelings, loved similar souls and hated similar enemies. Maybe they were average for their time, and maybe they led millions. Maybe they succeeded, and maybe they failed.

Stories is what we have, and stories is what we are.

History isn't boring. You're just not paying attention.

1

World War I: Why Young Men Wanted to Go To War

Monitor vs. Merrimac engraving

I'm currently reviewing some old textbooks on American history, and came across a fantastic passage.

There are a number of reasons why World War I's volunteer enlistment was high. Read this passage from a children's textbook1 about the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac in 1862.

You can see very clearly how young men, taught from an early age of the glory, adventure, and honor of battle would seek it out as soon as it was an option.

335. Famous Battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac.—It was a Sunday morning, and the sun rose in a cloudless sky. The batteries on both sides of the bay were crowded with men waiting for the coming contest. At the first sign of life on board the Merrimac, the Monitor began her preparations for the battle.

Slowly the Confederate ram came down the bay. She opened fire on the Minnesota, which was still aground. The frigate responded with a mighty broadside, but the cannon balls rattled off the iron flanks of the huge ram like so many peas. Clearly everything depended upon the little Monitor.

The battle now began, and the huge shells and heavy shot crashed like loudest thunder. It was a strange, an awful battle. At times the two vessels were in actual contact. The dense smoke, the deafening roar of explosions, the shouts of officers' orders, the crews often hurled off their feet by the terrific blows smiting the iron armor—all made it beyond description fearfully sublime. The Merrimac's plates were split and torn. One shot, entering her port, did terrible havoc.

Just as Lieutenant Worden of the Monitor was looking through the slit in the turret to take aim, a shell struck outside and filled his face and eyes with powder and iron splinters! He was insensible for some time.

When he came to himself, his first question was, "Have I saved the Minnesota?"

"Yes," was the reply, "and whipped the Merrimac."

"Then I don't care what becomes of me," he answered.

After more than three hours of this frightful combat, the humbled Merrimac steamed back to Norfolk, the victorious little Monitor giving a series of farewell shots as she sailed away.

Thus ended this marvelous battle, the first in the world's history between ironclad vessels. All Washington retired to sleep that night with a sense of relief, for it seemed as if the nation had been saved.

The brave Worden shortly after the famous battle went to Washington. President Lincoln was at a cabinet meeting when he heard of the lieutenant's arrival. He rose hastily and said, "Gentlemen, I must go to that fellow."

When Lincoln entered his room, Worden was lying on a sofa with his eyes and head heavily bandaged.

"Mr. President," said he, "you do me great honor by this visit."

"Sir," said Mr. Lincoln, with tears in his eyes, "I am the one who is honored by this interview."

  • 1. Available at gutenberg.org. Albert F. Blaisdell, The Story of American History for Elementary Schools (Boston: Ginn & Company Publishers, 1902), 394-296.

Hagia Sophia will become a mosque again

The Hagia Sophia

According to Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Edogan, the Hagia Sophia will not remain a neutral historical site. Instead, it will be converted back into a mosque. This is a pretty important development in world history, should it actually occur. There's a chance it's political maneuvering as elections in Turkey come near, but it's a good reminder that even ancient cathedrals are still living historical artifacts today.

Read the Article on the Art Newspaper >>

Medieval Magazine

Medieval Magazine

Here's a bit of light reading if you find the Medieval Era fascinating like I do. Take a look at Medieval Magazine; there are a lot of interesting articles about surprisingly specific pieces of history.