Jo here. I was having lunch with two of my sisters and the talk turned to why and how children suddenly become enthusiastic about a particular school subject. Both my sisters were teachers. We then moved on to epiphany moments in our own education.
One sister remembered how she found history boring in school, but that when she went to teacher training college and began to use primary sources, it came alive and fascinated her. Primary sources, of course, are from the time — letters, diaries, newspapers, legal rulings, plays et al. Such documents give us the voice of the time, and sometimes every the voices of ordinary people going about their everyday lives.
Do you remember when you fell in thrall to past times?
I did a degree in history, unfortunately back in the day when social history wasn't much regarded, so it was mostly about international relations and political movements. :: yawn!:: My career as a writer has given me a beautiful excuse to wallow in primary sources a lot, and the internet has made it so delightfully easy.
I can't however, pinpoint where and when I fell in love with the past.
It feels as if I was born that way. Even as a young child I preferred fairy tales, which are presented historically, to anything set in the modern world, such as the Dick and Jane type of Ladybird book. When I started reading novels, they were historical as often as I could get them.
My father was an influence, for he was keen on history, especially of the more romantic type. I grew up on Robin Hood, Hereward the Wake,and Bonnie Prince Charlie. I loved the drama and the costumes.
Here's an interesting springboard to some primary sources. It's a teacher resource, but of general interest.
I particularly like googlebooks, because I can put in publication dates in order to get works that my characters might have read. They have made it a bit tricky, for some reason. I have to put in a search and get results and then scroll to the bottom of the page to click on advanced search, where I can put in the date parameters.
Just playing around for this blog I discovered a new-to-me work called The World, published in 1761. I don't have time to explore it now — I don't! I can't! I mustn't! — but part of the introduction is an almost irresistible hook.
"My design in this paper is
to ridicule, with novelty and good-humour, the fashions, follies, vices
and absurdities of that part of the human species which calls itself
the World, and to trace it
through all its business, pleasures and amusements. But though my
subjects will chiefly confine me to the town, I do not mean never to
make excursions into the country; on the contrary, when the profits of
these lucubrations shall have enabled me to set up a one-horse chair, I
shall take frequent occasions of inviting my reader to a seat in it, and
of driving him to scenes of pure air, tranquility and innocence, from
smoke, hurry and intrigue."
I don't! I can't! I mustn't!
Oh, all right. Just a little peep. Ah, what I first find are stories laid out to illustrate vices and virtues. The first one is complicated, but it certainly illustrates the way of the world at the time. I'll capture it, clean it up, and make it available in due course.
So back to you. When and how did history get its hooks into you?