What is history?

History is, quite simply, the study of the past.  It’s about how change happens. This means that it’s full of exciting stories, and amazing characters to get to know.  It can be about dramatic events – wars, daring rescues, grand adventures.

But for a long time, many people have missed out big chunks of history.  They’ve assumed that the important bits are about the powerful, the rich, and the famous.  Historians have written about kings and queens, famous writers, musicians and artists: they have often assumed that the ones worth writing about were men, and they have sometimes assumed that the one loud voice of a famous politician was more important than the thousands of words and actions of those whose names have been forgotten.

Modern historians have been making up for lost time.  We realise that history is about everyone.  It’s about women and men, grown-ups and children, the able-bodied and those who lived with physical impairments.  It’s about people from all over the world, it’s about the poor as well as the rich, and everyone in between.  It’s about those who held power – the politicians, kings, and queens of this world – and it’s about those who were their subjects.  And what makes it so exciting is that when we look a little more closely, we find that these millions of people so long forgotten – the poor, slaves, women, children, and so on – were not in fact voiceless.  No-one was ‘just’ someone else’s subject, no-one was ‘just’ left out and excluded, no-one was ‘just’ anything.

It’s a great challenge to search out the evidence for a history of everyone.  Whilst we encounter some nasty characters along the way, it’s also pretty inspiring to discover the sheer brilliance and depth of humanity.

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