Tuesday, January 4, 2011

History is Boring

I'm currently compiling the list of books to read in 2011, and I have lots of history books on it, and even more historical fiction. There are also some places I want to visit this year, archeological sites and a couple of museums where I want to have a second look at some artifacts to clear up some issues. I subscribe to a bunch of groups and feeds about history, and, of course, I have this blog. I bore myself to death sometimes.

And no, I'm not playing the devil's advocate. History is boring. It's mostly about years and maps, and dates that shift with the evolution of the calendar, and rivers that change their course over the years, and cities that vanish without a trace, and dwellings that show up after thousands of years without any reason for being there in the first place. And when you're done with those, you have to deal with even more boring stuff, like laws, customs, inflation rates, trade routes and the evolution of the horseshoe and its impact on migration patterns.

All these become important somehow – and, mind you, my interest in the Roman period was sparkled by Suetonius, who's no better than a Hollywood blockbuster; but in ten years I've evolved – or devolved – to a genuine interest in how wide-spread was the use of Archimedes' screw in the 2nd century. You have to know all the details in order to get the big picture, and, of course, you lose the big picture because you're too busy with the little details.

I've said it before, but let me re-state it for the new year: this blog is not about history. It's about the glamor, the intrigue, the personal drama, the jokes and the ironies of a period that's accidentally considered of historical interest. On occasion, actual bits and pieces of history might stumble in, because the boring part rubbed off on me. But rest assured, I'm doing my best to focus on the interesting parts, and to prove that... errr... actually, nothing. Because I can't prove that history isn't boring, since, you know, it is.