A blast from the past, revisited.


Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.


What historical/public figure would you most like to learn more about? Would you ever write about them?


I very nearly didn’t join in this week. You see, I hated history at school, I gave up studying it at the first available opportunity.

I blame the syllabus, because looking at what was going to be taught, I thought it was dealing with boring events and times. Things like the feudal system in Medieval England, and the lead up to the Norman Invasion of 1066.

Now I’m older and wiser, I’ve taken it upon myself to learn the history that I wanted to know about, such things as the industrial revolution, the rise of the East India Company and the way the United Kingdom projected itself across the world. The first and second world wars and their causes.


And now that I’ve been able to study what interests me, I find that history isn’t boring at all.


The people from history who interest me are statesmen and explorers. Such men as Winston Churchill, T.E. Lawrence, and Richard Burton (not the actor). As well as the industrialists and scientists who built the modern country I live in and whose inventions we still use today. People like Wedgewood, Thomson, Rutherford and Brunel. In many ways, the modern world is a product of the things that they (and many others like them) saw, said and did.

Which is not to say that they were perfect. Nobody is. There are parts of their characters and deeds that people today are uncomfortable with and I understand that. Whilst not supporting or condoning everything in their lives, I think that it’s a mistake to judge yesterday’s events and decisions by today’s standards. People in the past behaved differently, their world was another place and they saw things in a way that, while we may disagree with it, was logical to them. If we transpose our morals to their actions, we miss the point and risk belittling their achievements. Even in our own lifetimes, things that the younger versions of ourselves saw as normal are now considered unacceptable.

Would I write about them? The answer is – not directly. But (and as usual, it’s a crucial one), as an author of science fiction, I have the luxury of being able to write my own version of history. The history of the future. In doing so, I can create men and women in the image of those I admire and ascribe events to them. Good and bad, noble and reprehensible.

Things that haven’t happened in this world (yet) but are well known to the people of the future – as facts from their past. They can make of them what they will.


And that’s where the real fun lies.



Let me know what you think about this week’s subject.

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12 Responses

  1. Steven Smith

    Great stuff as usual! I was always a bit of a history buff, but a lot of the people that interest me, I have alreasy read much about.

    • Richard Dee

      Thank you. Once you get past the things other people think you need to know, it’s fascinating what you can discover.

  2. Stevie Turner

    I’ve always been interested in the life of I.K Brunel, and have made a point of visiting some of his bridges and tunnels. I wish I could have had the kind of mathematical brain that he had!

    • Richard Dee

      That it took nature over 150 years to destroy something he built (Dawlish sea wall) speaks volumes of his work.

  3. P.J. MacLayne

    I was a history buff too, but my view of what is important in history has changed. The people and events of fascinating, but I’m always looking for the behind-the-scenes info.

    • Richard Dee

      In my wanderings through the past, I’ve found that the sidekick usually has a far more fascinating tale to tell.

  4. Lela Markham

    I loved history from my earliest memory, but some historians seriously need to take a writing course. How can you turn war into something boring? I don’t know, but a whole lot of historians have managed it.

    I agree with you about not judging people in the past by the standards of today. Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin were giants of their day, but also men of their culture. They would have to adjust their attitudes if they lived in todays’ society — but they didn’t live in today’s society. Were I to be magically transported by to 1776, I’d need to adjust mine in order to navigate that society.

    How stupid, insane, bigoted or misogynistic you are may well be firmly founded on the soil you’re standing on. That doesn’t mean we excuse what they got wrong or what they didn’t know, but that we recognize (with a huge dollop of humility — which is something modern humans struggle with) that they didn’t live in 2021 century western culture, but they laid the groundwork for the culture that exists today.

    • Richard Dee

      Unfortunately, a lack of tolerance prevails, and a pervasive orthodoxy that allows no dissent. When you try to pretend that things didn’t happen, what’s the next step?

  5. phil huston

    The next step is repeating them.
    Yes, the sidekick, the cook, the driver – they do indeed have the best stories.
    I fully agree with your comment on judging. Things were how they were, and no amount of ignoring or re-writing or vilifying history or legislating it out of existence will change the fact that it was how it was. And I’m gonna stop there.

    • Richard Dee

      Agreed. I have unfashionable views, I blame my age and the fact that I’ve travelled the world. Enough said. 🙂

  6. roberta Eaton Cheadle

    I really enjoyed your take on this post, Richard. I did like history at school and took it as one of my specialised subjects in high school. I do like the freedom of researching the historical topics that interest me and I am also fascinated by the period from the beginning of the industrial revolution until now.

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks, Robbie. I hated school and only really started to take an interest when I could either see a use for what I was learning and/or that the subject was worthy of my attention.

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