Saturday, 10 December 2011
The right kind of history - and family history
Here's an interesting piece from the BBC website last week, written by historian Lisa Jardine, who has recently become converted to the benefits of researching family history. The story is at www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16000134.
Family historians of course know the benefits of why they do what they do. It amuses me how often academic historians try to belittle family history as some kind of wild fancy firmly located within hobby territory. But the truth is (at least as I see it!) that family history research can be a direct challenge to some academic historians, who wish to portray an 'official history' and wallow in the glory of being the gatekeeper to that history (particularly if your surname begins with an S!).
To me the best historians are those with open minds, so it's nice to read a piece showing someone firmly on the path of conversion. Academic history has its place, most definitely, particularly in providing context or a backdrop to our ancestral stories. But our individual family histories are a canvas they can never touch - the fact that this is the case makes our efforts no less important or respectable.