Education


The History Boys

Many years ago, the head of the history department at my school was lecturing the pre-university class. Suddenly the door of the classroom burst open and the junior history master rushed in.

"You bastard!" he screamed. "You've been sleeping with my wife."

Within moments there was chaos. Blackboard dusters - the old wooden-backed ones - were flying. The two men were wrestling on the floor.

And then, suddenly, it stopped. The two men stood up, turned to the twenty-two very frightened boys, and told them: "Write down what happened." Unsurprisingly, they got twenty-two conflicting accounts.

"Now," said the head of the department, "what do you make of your primary sources?"

It is thanks to this lesson that I know that absolute historical truth does not exist, except in the mind of God - and of course, in the imagination of the historical novelist!

 

Did You Know?
In Manhattan in the early to mid nineteenth century, scores of pigs roamed the streets – about 20,000 of them at peak population in the early 1820’s, a ratio of roughly one pig to every five humans ! Many of them belonged to families. The city was quickly growing in the nineteenth century – in population and wealth disparity. Despite rapid urbanization, non-wealthy New Yorkers continued raising hogs as a means of surviving. A family could always slaughter one of its pigs to feed itself, or sell one of them since pork was a staple of the American diet. Why pigs? Other animals weren’t quite so compatible with urban life. People could let their pigs wander the streets, rummage through trash for the piles of spoiled food that was left out on the street during the day, and count on them to return home in the evening !




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