Unpoetic History

Well, it can be poetry in a sense. But I thought having posted about historical subjects in my poems and subtler influences on my poems of having a History degree, I’d say a bit for History as a subject to study.

The arguments against it mostly go like this:

History is boring.

That’s the past. It’s over now. I want to know about the future!

Who needs/wants to know about a lot of dead kings/dead white males?

It won’t help you get a job.

It’s propaganda.

It’s unfashionable/ not cool.

It’s all very well, but it mustn’t crowd out Maths/English/foreign languages/computer skills/sport from the syllabus.

History is bunk (Henry Ford).

Now you may have noticed that some of these arguments are contradictory: for example, propaganda that’s boring is highly incompetent propaganda. It might also occur to you that since the future hasn’t happened yet, there is a major question about how to predict it or prepare for it (and if you can’t predict it, you’re at some disadvantage in preparing for it).

If it weren’t for History, broadly understood, we wouldn’t now know who Henry Ford was or that he said it was bunk.

Now here are SOME arguments used FOR History:

We should understand how our nation arose, the main events in its history and how its values developed and were demonstrated.

History helps create a sense of nationhood.

History repeats itself.

History demonstrates great trends which are eventually unavoidable.

History is value-free and non-ideological.

Now again you might notice some contradictions: the first two arguments, for example, make assumptions about values to be promoted, which runs against the last argument. The third and fourth points also appear to contradict one another, or at least to concentrate on different aspects.

I’m going to stop there and come back to this. In the meantime, you might want to comment on some of those points, for or against.

Normal poetic service will be resumed as soon as possible.

CLUE: I’ve actually NOT stated any of the arguments that are to me the most powerful in favour of History.

Leave a comment


  1. So glad you gave us a clue ! The pros and cons all seemed a bit bloodless!
    I could write a book about the joy of history, the fascination, the value, the light it shines and so on… looking forward to what you really think….

  2. Poetry IS history . . .


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