I'm a big fan of history. Lots of exciting things have happened in our past to get us to where we are right now, and I love reading all about every moment. But dry dates, names, and places aren't for me. No, my love of history is based on my love of people. When I was growing up, I could often be found curled up on my bed or in a corner, reading about the lives of people who were there. I like to read what they wrote about, how they felt about what was happening to them. For instance, did the aristocracy in France truly understand the American Revolution and what it would mean to their own survival years later? They might have changed their mind about helping us out. Then where would we have been?
I especially love reading biographies.
Over the years, I've spent hours with King Henry VIII and his family, before and after that monarch went about lopping off the heads of his wives. I especially enjoy reading about the women. Given the past prevailing wisdom that women were somehow less than men, the idea that these women were able to carve out a place for themselves, where they could be who they wanted to be. Eleanor of Aquitaine, although imprisoned by her husband, was so powerful that she still managed to affect the politics of several countries over the years. Elizabeth I of England managed to keep everyone guessing at a time when a monarch couldn't even go to the bathroom without a retinue of thirty people watching. That took skill.
I don't just read about Merry Olde England. I'm also enamored of the people of the United States, the trailblazers. The Old West fascinates me, as do stories of the Presidents and their wives. But really, any person who survived the odds, like Helen Keller, is fascinating. Men of ingenuity, inventors, criminals, comedians, friends, enemies...it doesn't matter. I read them all. I wasn't born during their time, but biographies allow me the opportunity to figuratively sit down next to these people, just like an old friend.
I used to worry that biography was a dying art, but I needn't have worried. I'm not the only one who is interested in the lives of other people, it turns out. The medium has changed a bit, however. These days anyone can have a reality show, or a podcast, or a even a blog, and be famous. Lots of material out there, floating along in the river of time.
Lots of stories to be written.