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Leader
28 Dec 03,, 15:32
History Lessons
By Eric Burns

This column, the last one I will write in 2003, is my Christmas gift to myself. It has nothing to do with news watching. In fact, it has nothing to do with the present. It is 653 words in praise of time gone by.

I probably spend more of my off-duty hours reading history than engaging in any other activity. (Actually, I have spent a lot of time in the past few years writing history; many of you know about my book, "The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol.")

The attractions of the past are many. For one thing, to learn what happened long ago is to comprehend what is happening right now with much more acuity than is otherwise possible. No one, for example, can truly understand the Middle East today without knowing of the decisions that were made about that part of the globe after World War II. And no one can truly understand those decisions without going back even further.

For another thing, and one that seems almost to contradict the first, the past makes a wonderful refuge from the present and its dins and demands. Think of reading a work of history as a vacation: a conventional vacation offers only a change of place; on the other hand, to open Laurence Bergreen’s new account of Magellan’s voyages (search), "Over the Edge of the World," is to alter one’s time as well as place.

Which is to say that history is able to perform the remarkable feat of making the present both more intelligible and more irrelevant, of holding it right up to our noses and hiding it around the most distant corner.

History makes a wonderful escape not only from the present, but from the journalism that so painstakingly -- and often painfully -- chronicles it. “The past,” writes the British essayist and critic Max Beerbohm (search), “is a work of art, free from irrelevancies and loose ends. There are, for our vision, comparatively few people in it, and all of them are interesting people. . . . And in the past there is so blessedly nothing for us to worry about. Everything is settled. There is nothing to be done about it--nothing but to contemplate it and blandly form theories about this or that aspect from it.”

Among American presidents, there was no greater theory former than Harry Truman (search), who became history’s student at an early age. Listen to this memory from Truman’s childhood friend, Harry Chiles:

“I remember one time we were playing...Jesse James or robbers, and we were the Dalton Brothers out in Kansas...and we were arguing about them. Harry came by -- we got the history mixed up ourselves -- but Harry straightened it out, just who were the Dalton brothers and how many got killed. Things like that the boys had a lot of respect for . . .”

Harry Truman was serious about history even when the history was play.

It was the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (search) who said that life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backward; and this is why, even though one might be playing with history, he cannot help but reap serious benefits. It is why, even though we may use history as an escape, we cannot help but be brought closer to the truer meanings of our own times.

So, in the year ahead, when Michael Jackson is too much with you, when Kobe Bryant seems the only name you read in the paper and Scott Peterson’s the only one you hear on television, remember Magellan’s perilous voyage. (Or, dare I say, remember "The Spirits of America.") Tales of the Past will not only help you get away; they will enable you to return to the present both refreshed and informed.

Eric Burns is the host of Fox News Watch, which airs Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and Sundays at 1:30 a.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 a.m. ET/3:30 a.m. PT, and 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT. He is the author of several books, including The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol (Temple University Press, 2003).

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,106747,00.html

Trooth
28 Dec 03,, 16:08
The problem is that history is of course mostly written by the winners. It often takes many generations of "history" for the truth to come out.

In today's world, "history" is often appropriated by the media, propogandists, entertainers or tyrants to simply back up their premises.



“The past,” writes the British essayist and critic Max Beerbohm (search), “is a work of art, free from irrelevancies and loose ends. There are, for our vision, comparatively few people in it, and all of them are interesting people. . . . And in the past there is so blessedly nothing for us to worry about. Everything is settled. There is nothing to be done about it--nothing but to contemplate it and blandly form theories about this or that aspect from it.”


This reminds me of an observation made by an artificial intellgence experiment (i forget which one, it was in "Computing" ). The software decided that everyone born before 1900 was famous. It deduced it because it only new of famous people fom that era.

TopHatter
31 Dec 03,, 00:10
Yup, it often takes decades, if not centuries for the truth to come out. Hell, it's only been in the past 10 years that I've found out that most of the American History I learned in school was mostly a lot of crap.
Actually, that's not fair. It would be fair to say that the basics were all true, but the pesky details were ah...well, how do I say this politely? Darn....can't think of a way. Ah well.

Stinger
31 Dec 03,, 16:06
the Survey history classes in todays publics schools are shit....


that about where you were going TH?

bigross86
31 Dec 03,, 16:27
The problem is that history is of course mostly written by the winners.

Sounds a bit like the Da Vince Code. "What is history but a fable agreed upon." - Napoleon Bonaparte

I personally liked the history lessons we got in school, although they focused a bit too much on Judaism and Jews, and on Europe after that. Very little on the American Revolution. I think 2 weeks tops of learning about it. Then again, not too much about the French either...

Stinger
31 Dec 03,, 17:00
go on google and Type "French military victories" then puch the I feel lucky button. :D

bigross86
31 Dec 03,, 17:44
LOL!!! :RW :Beer :dbanana :dbanana :dbanana :ar15 :taynk :zf14 :zf14 :duel :D :LOL :sniper :clap: :devil2

Trooth
31 Dec 03,, 19:10
Arf.

Harsh.

But fair.

TopHatter
31 Dec 03,, 20:13
Originally posted by Stinger
the Survey history classes in todays publics schools are shit.... that about where you were going TH?

Not sure what you mean by Survey history classes, although I seem to recall a class offered called Social Science Survey that everybody regarded as being an easy throwaway class. I never took it myself.

Stinger
31 Dec 03,, 20:38
A survey history class is one that tries to cover a large amount of time, over any kind of focus or specifics of a certain time period. For instance the so called World History, or US history 1492-1865.

naocman
02 Jan 04,, 20:40
As far as French Military History is concerned....I give you this..

http://home.ripway.com/2003-11/39627/Frenhc_mil_history.jpg

Leader
02 Jan 04,, 20:43
Originally posted by naocman
As far as French Military History is concerned....I give you this..

Yes, I believe I posted that a while back. :) Are you a subscriber to the weekly standard?

naocman
02 Jan 04,, 20:47
Actually I'm not. I just got this off another message board...I liked it enough that I saved it to my hard drive. I might consider subscribing, but I'm only 17 years old..money is kind of right right now.

Leader
02 Jan 04,, 20:50
You could subscribe to the online addition. It's like $.80 an issue. :D

Allot of their articles are free too just go to:
Http://www.weeklystandard.com

TopHatter
04 Jan 04,, 05:33
Hey, anybody know where the music to the Star Spangled Banner came from?
OK, we all know where the words came from of course, right? And eh, when did it become our national anthem? NO LOOKING ON THE INTERNET! Answer only if you know the answers off the top of your head!
We'll see just how much American History our patriotic board members learned in high school:00

naocman
04 Jan 04,, 07:52
"Hey, anybody know where the music to the Star Spangled Banner came from?"

IIRC, it was a British song...a rather saucy song, I think. It was another way to thumb our noses at the British by setting our National Anthem to one of their "saucy" songs.

naocman
04 Jan 04,, 07:52
As for the actual name of the song...no idea.:ermm

bigross86
04 Jan 04,, 11:20
I know it originally has four verses, and it wasn't officialy made our anthem until the 1920's or 1930's

ChrisF202
04 Jan 04,, 14:41
1931, written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 :)

Trooth
04 Jan 04,, 15:28
It all goes a bit wrong after the first few opening bars :)

Ironduke
17 Jan 04,, 04:25
Originally posted by naocman
"Hey, anybody know where the music to the Star Spangled Banner came from?"

IIRC, it was a British song...a rather saucy song, I think. It was another way to thumb our noses at the British by setting our National Anthem to one of their "saucy" songs.
I heard it was a bar song or something.