Practice beats theory in many ways. When it comes to learning about history, it’s best to travel and understand history through a historic place. Show of hands, who here learns best by practice? That’s what I thought – there’s more people like me! I hate theory and I always learn best when I’m active. So if it is possible to learn math by solving equations, it is also possible to learn history by traveling (in time). Here are some tips on how to understand history.
Photo Credit: archer10 (Dennis) via Compfight cc
I don’t mean actually constructing a time machine and take myself back to Mediaeval France – come on! I wouldn’t survive one day there (without my smartphone. And my shower!). Luckily we don’t need a device from a science fiction novel to explore the life our ancestors lived.
To me the best way is to visit places where history was created. It can be the Mediterranian, where you can see the ruins of the quite developed Roman aqueducts, the not-very-rational-to-construct-but-still-pretty ancient Greek oracles, the Egyptian pyramids. It can be some small Chinese village, where not a lot has changed since the Ming Dynasty was ruling the country. You can see for yourself places that suffered the most after the WW2, like Warsaw or Dresden. Choosing your destination is quite easy – all is dependant on the period you’re interested in.
Besides admiring architecture, there are other ways to: like going to a museum. Give me a break – not all of them are boring! Modern museums have a lot to offer. Exhibits are not just for show any more: you can touch them and play with them without anyone reprimanding you and asking you out. The exhibitions are combining objects of historical value with up to date technology and the museum custodians are pretty devious – all those pictures and movies and exhibits and all the rest is there for one reason and one reason only – to distract you from the fact that you’re actually learning something new! And, what is worse, it works!
Luckily for everyone, there is more than just museums. One of the options is also attending an event like a historical reenactment. All over the world people interested in history dress up for the occasion and reenact most interesting historical events. Usually it’s a really important (even if just for the region you are currently visiting) battle. The costumes worn by the participants look exactly like the ones worn by actual warriors (or knights, or soldiers), also the weapons used are the exact replicas. You would think, that observing something you know the result of would be boring, but far from it! It is all really exciting, especially, when you’re observing a huge venture with hundreds or thousands of people are involved.
But let’s not limit ourselves to just events! There are places, where you can actually see how people used to live for example back in the 8th century. The villages called skansens are some sort of an open air museums created just for a reason like that. Most of them are located in Europe (the first one was created in the capital of Sweden – Stockholm), but you can find some of them in other parts of the globe, like the US. Visiting an ethnographical skansen, you can not only observe the everyday life of the villagers in the past, but also try living like that for a while: milking cows, using their equipment to prepare food, and sometimes even trying out some typical pieces of clothing. And if you’re more into technics and industry – there are skansens for you as well – created on the territory of an old factory, in the old mine etc. Quite popular are also open air railway museums where you can get on a not very fast train, see the inside of a steam locomotive and so on.
There are many ways to learn history and not even notice that. Experiencing the realities of a specific historical period is way better than just reading about it! So if you think of a way to increase your knowledge on history – stop thinking. Act on it by visiting some of the mentioned possibilities! You’ll not only learn but also have plenty of fun!