- 1066 - Battle of Hastings, a date most English people can remember as this was the last time anybody successfully invaded England.
- 1215 - Magna Carta. It's only in the last 12 months or so that this year has become embedded in my memory.
- 1605 or thereabouts - Gunpowder Plot. I can't remember the actual year but I know this was in the first 10 years of the 17th century.
- 1805 - Battle of Trafalgar. To my shame, I remember only that the battle was in October of that year.
- 1815 - Battle of Waterloo. June?
- 1837 - accession of Queen Victoria.
- 1914-18 - First World War.
- 1939-45 - Second World War.
- 1941 - Pearl Harbor attacked. November?
- 1952 - Queen Elizabeth II succeeded King George VI in February.
I suppose when we think of history we automatically think of those big events - Agincourt, the Civil War (English or American), the Battle of the Somme and the like. One of the most interesting history lessons I can remember - indeed, the only one I can remember - was about Nelson's tactics in the battle of Trafalgar. It was the minutiae, the nitty-gritty, rather than the great sweep of world affairs - and it was this that was, to me, so interesting.
This fact - that the small, everyday matters are more interesting than the so-called important happenings - was brought home to me one year during a holiday on the island of Jersey. The Old Bat and I had visited a place called Hamptonne Farm. Hamptonne Farm was a country life museum (it still is) brought to life with characters from the island's past. A bit like a small Old Sturbridge or Strawberry Hill. When we visited there was a wonderful woman in the kitchen who claimed to be the housekeeper/cook. She really played her part extremely well and had the children in the audienc rapt. The adults were pretty interested as well.
And that really illustrates what I am trying to say. History is not just the story of world leaders; it is also the day-to-day story of you and I. The trouble is that so much of that fascinating story is lost to us. Or if not lost completely, it is devilish hard to find. We pour, entranced, over a ledger detailing household expenditure in the 18th century, but what are the chances of anybody keeping such detailed records now? What games children played, how food was prepared, how a heavy sleeper was woken before alarm clocks were available to farm labourers: all this is what people want to know even if they don't know that they want to know it. That is why it is so important that we attempt to record at least some of our daily lives for our children's children to read. Skip's post earlier this week does the job superbly.