Nineteenth Century History
I’m a bit of a history buff – not a real historian, no original research, no intense study, no surprising insights – I just like reading about history. I also enjoy military history as a specific category, but this article is about general history.
I have two favorite historical periods – the entire 19th century and the decade of the 1950’s. My interest in the 1950’s is easy to understand, since I was in my formative years (ages 6-16) during that decade. My enjoyment of the 19th century is a little more complex.
I find the 1800’s fascinating for many reasons. It was a century full of exploration, settlement, technological development, inventions, scientific discoveries, amazing leaps in transportation and communications, the initiation of our modern major team sports, progress in medicine and health issues, improvements in basic human rights, the creation of some excellent literature and music, the beginning of the availability of leisure activities and luxuries for people below the upper crust of society, and the establishment of product brands and businesses that were popular throughout the 20th century (and many still are today). It was 100 years of fantastic civilization and cultural growth.
Many years ago, I acquired the Microsoft Bookshelf CD with a PC purchase. This CD contains an amazing compendium of historical facts, from the earliest known history through 1996. As a history buff, I found this CD to be a most entertaining and informative source of historical data. I was so taken by it that I spent a great many hours cutting, pasting, and re-formatting much of it into a document I call my Timeline. In fact, I have read every entry on that CD, from beginning to end. I selected items I thought were the most interesting and characteristic of each year from 800 through 1996. I divided the material into convenient-sized documents. I started with the year 800 because my wife has some family genealogy information going back to that century (mine goes only to the 1500’s at this time). I interspersed the historical data with important family dates (births, marriages, deaths, relocations, etc.) for my family and for my wife’s family (two separate versions). This combination of information adds some flavor to our family history by placing family events into perspective. It is interesting to read about the status of civilization and the world in relation to when a far-back ancestor was born and lived. I also have a “clean copy” of the timeline, with no family dates in it.
I recently began reorganizing the clean timeline data into twenty-four categories of subject matter (e.g., Agriculture, Mining, Science, Education, World Affairs, Armed Conflicts). I then “copied-and-pasted” the historical facts from each year of the timeline into the appropriate categories. My final combined Nineteenth Century document was over 130 pages of 10 pt. font, single spaced, with narrow margins. I separated this data into twenty-four separate documents, one for each category, and within each category, the historical data appears in date order. This will allow me to study the development of one subject area at a time (such as medicine and health) throughout the century. I just finished the creation of the documents today, and I’m looking forward to beginning my own private study of the 19th century.
I plan to take the same approach and create a document showing what happened in the world during the 1950’s. This will have special meaning to me, since I can recall much of that decade from personal memory.
I may decide to add our family dates back into these documents someday, to make our family history even more interesting. In the case of the 1950’s document, I can integrate my own personal written history, year by year.
For my mother’s and my wife’s mother’s 95th birthdays, we used some of the most interesting facts from the timeline to add to documents we created for their celebrations. We may find other practical uses for this information in the future.
This entire process has taken about eight years of sporadic effort, generally in short intense bursts of work, separated by long stretches of down time. I expect to get many years of enjoyment from the results.