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HER Story

“We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
One of the biggest issues a historian can face is looking at an issue, time period, or place objectively.  We cannot help but look at the past the way we view the present or become emotionally attached to our subjects.  Unfortunately, we need to look at everything in a historical context.  I can list a hundred things that based on our current way of thinking would be deemed unforgiveable.  It is hard to separate those feelings to analyze a historical subject accurately.  I fought being a U.S. historian for three years now.  I think it is a matter of how close I am to the subject.  Many actions the U.S. has taken embarrass me.  I seem to be capable of separating myself more when I focus on ancient or medieval history.  Now I realize that I cannot avoid the past of the United States, anymore than anyone else can avoid the past of his or her country.
What drives me to stick with history (regardless of the lack of jobs available outside of teaching), is the need to tell people the story of someone who has been forgotten or ignored.  I have spent three years and countless hours researching an essentially unknown historical figure.  No one cares that she died, how she died, or why she died.  But I do.  I care so much that her story is the single reason I switched to U.S. history.  I need the world to know about her.  It is not because she did something great, but because she deserves to be remembered.  I look back at her life with a bleeding heart, but I need to put myself within the context of her time-period, and remove myself emotionally from her.  I feel closer to her than I have many “real” people.  Every time I think about her, find a snippet of new information about her, or tie her story in with a bigger historical picture, I get excited.  I am not passionate about much, but I am passionate about her.
I cannot wait until I find her grave.  Visit where she lived.  I hope that something of hers still exists out there, even if that is unlikely.  I want to understand what it must have been like to see the world through her eyes.  I am in awe of her, yet saddened for her.  Her life did not matter to most, but it matters to me.  I realize I am probably another five years out before the book will be complete, and that is probably, in reality, more like seven years.  The excitement and passion I feel for this particular girl makes me want to tell her story now, but I could not do her justice at this point.  So I wait, impatiently, until the day I can finally tell her story, and I intensely hope that people will listen.
“Do not applaud me. It is not I who speaks to you, but history which speaks through my mouth.” – Fustel de Coulanges

5 responses to “HER Story”

  1. Avatar scott1959 says:

    A lover of U. S. history myself, as you say despite its embarrassments. Just the other day I found this quote by Nicholson Baker that you might like……."One of the pleasures of writing history is that of tillage, or soil renewal; you travel around in unfashionable hiding places for things that have lain untouched for decades to see what particularities they may yield to a new eye."

    • Christina Christina says:

      Yes, that quote is perfect! It is exactly how I feel. I thoroughly enjoy reading and interpreting history, especially people or events that no one knows about already.

  2. Avatar Rinth de Shadley says:

    Thank you for a wonderful, moving essay. Everyone deserves to be remembered, even if most of us won't be.
    I do wonder, though, if the whole idea of "objective history" is a mistake. There's no way to make sense out of history without having some kind of story or theory in mind. And the theory controls what you see as important and what causes you think were at work. So if you have to interpret historical events in terms of a story, why not make it a helpful one? I understand that ancient historians were less interested in details than in providing good moral examples and getting the big picture right. Maybe they had the right idea.

    • Christina Christina says:

      The reality is, every historian imparts his or her own "touch" into a story. It is impossible not to. You try to be objective, but the point of writing books, journal articles, etc… is to convince the reader of a point you are trying to make. Of course you will find sources that agree with your point of view, and interpret them that way. It is natural. When you get so close to a subject, you cannot help but to become attached.

  3. llxt llxt says:

    When I was in middle school, my mom was going for her master's degree in history. I still remember one of her textbooks–called Herstory. Actually, I have it to this day. I once tried to read it, but it seemed really boring (I hadn't yet discovered the intertextuality of literature & history); I should definitely give it another try…

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Christina About Christina

*Christina “Olives” Lamoureux is the self-fulfilling prophecy of a quirky and sarcastic procrastinator. When faced with the reality of work, she generally takes a nap instead. She currently lives and attends graduate school in Fitchburg, MA, where she spends her time studying really old stuff as an Ancient and Medieval History major. She is very slowly writing a true crime story that has nothing to do with ancient or medieval history, but aspires to write historical fiction as well. The only perfect thing she has done in her life is thrown a 300 game in ten pin bowling; since that occurred in her twenties, it is now ancient history as well. Besides history and bowling, she “sees dead people” as part of a paranormal investigation team. When she cannot afford to indulge in her martini fetish, she reads or watches terrible, pointless TV.

Read more by this author on 30POV .


December 2010
November 2010
On My Honor
October 2010
Witch Hunt
September 2010
If, Then.
May 2010
Small Crimes
April 2010
February 2010
"It's Complicated"
January 2010