So, what is History? When I told someone I was giving a talk on History and what it is, they said, "and you only have an hour?" .
No doubt everyone in this room has some idea of what History is, or isn't. So let's get started and see how far we can get with my highly selective view of History and what it brings to mind, at least to me. (Might also remind you that this is the first time I've ever given this talk, so I'm sure it'll be changing and certainly improving over time.).
Napoleon said "history is a myth we all agree to believe.".
Shakespeare noted that "what is past is prologue" to the present and the future. .
Henry Ford being the pragmatic he was said "history is bunk.".
Wil Durant believed civilization was a stream contained within two riverbanks. Sometimes the stream was filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing such things as historians usually record, while on the banks behind them, unnoticed by the historians, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs and write poetry (just doing the things people do). He said the story of civilization is what happens on the banks and not in the stream and that historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river. .
Newspeople like to say they write the first draft of history.
Others believe in the "Joe Friday" school. Just the facts please.
Some believe the past is written in stone. While others see it as totally up for grabs. .
G. M. Trevelyan said that "the poetry of history lies in the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all are gone, one generation vanishing after another, gone as utterly as we ourselves shall shortly be gone like ghosts at cock-crow.".
My desktop dictionary defines History as: "A chronological record of events, as of the development of a people--" And I would have been perfectly happy that.