If you know me, slightly know me or maybe bumped into me once while evacuating Saigon, then you know I love History. I have since I was a boy, I used to sit in the history section of the library at our elementary school paging through every book. I remember when Time-life came out with there US history ( which still sits on my book shelf) and WWII series (“It started out as a twisted dream”) and I have not stopped gathering books since.
I love reading about so many periods that it sometimes makes my head spin, however I care nothing for Greek or eastern european history ( until the world wars). I am a odd bird... a example would be, I don’t care anything for aboriginal African (or American for that matter) history except where it intertwines with Western European/ American history. Ancient Egypt..MEH! Ancient Egypt meets Romans? read read read.
I like history to be at the ground floor, a individual perspective. This is hard to find for earlier periods but a example would be... “Army group North” puts me to sleep but “Forgotten Soldier” I can’t put down. I love to imagine past history through the eyes of a person not staring down at a map with broad red and blue arrows on it. “Quartered Safe out here” is one of my Favorite books because it not only takes you into WWII Burma, but attempts to replicate the accents and character of each member of the section.
I think this is why I like Living History so much, it enables me to get some idea of what it was like. I will never know what it was truly like in the civil war, but I do know what it is like to see 10s of thousands of men on the field, I learned that at first “Right Shoulder shift” fells as awkward as heck... but when you learn to do it right, its the most comfortable way to carry a long heavy musket. I know what its like to circle in a landing craft for a hour while guys get sea sick, then land on a beach, I have followed a tank through knee deep snow and crouched nervously in no-mans land while the enemies wire is being cut. Though it is the combat portion I can not ever understand, I can appreciate what it was like to be “thus arrayed for war”... what it is like to be burdened by the gear and uniforms.
I love talking to a Living Historian who loves their period and has truly researched it and puts their heart into it. On the other hand, I can no longer watch a many movies anymore because of wardrobe or historical inaccuracies. Non history loving friends poke fun at me because I can get hung up in the details... but come on, would it have hurt just to have done a little research.
I hate seeing a movie that feels it has to dramatize a event that the truth, if told correctly is already so much more dramatic. I hate it when Hollywood has to rewrite history for the sake of diversity. A example would be the dropping of the Atomic Bomb... we need to see the world through the eyes of 1945 to truly understand how that moment came to pass.
There is a joy to go to a event (Wargaming or Living History) and sit around with a bunch of people and talk and learn about battles and history... Heck I have enjoyed listening to a guy who does colonial wigs and people who have researched clothing of a period to a mind boggling extent.
Reading history, my imagination uses my experiences and other readings to build my “mind image”. I see the characters more vividly as I imagine the Victorian characters of a novel or a battle scarred soldier in the mountains of Italy in 1944. Though no description maybe given for a guard... he stands out in detail to me from the books I have read.
My love of history never dies, certain periods fade from favor ( only to resurface latter) and other rise in interest but there is always a want to view the world past through the eyes of those who have lived it. I hope one day one of my children shares my love but I will not force them... they should come into it as I did... through a true love of the subject.