SUNDAY, 9 APRIL 2017
Fifty years from now only some history teachers, historians and people who are truly interested in the subject will be able to speak for more than 60 seconds about the Second World War. For most people it will simply have been too long ago, and too many things would have happened in this century that would fill people’s heads.
I mean, how many people today can still converse intelligently for more than 30 seconds about the First World War? How many people during the First World War could talk intelligently for as long as a minute about the Napoleonic wars? And remember: the events of the first two decades of the 1800s were front page news in at least major cities at the time they occurred, and hot topics of discussion around dinner tables and in the streets!
The same question can be asked about the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century, or the Protestant Revolution and the religious wars of the sixteenth century. A hundred years after these events, how many people were still able to have a factual discussion about these events?
Fact is, time moves on. Old history makes way for new history. Veterans of the greatest war for a generation or more die one after another until there is no one left who has experienced that war first-hand. And people’s interests change.
History of which you will only be ignorant today if you are uneducated or living in a cave will in many cases be so obscure in several decades’ time that people will look at you funny if you can indeed have a conversation for more than a minute about it – or, depending on the subject and the decade, a monologue.