I’ve found myself writing a lot about individualism in all senses – of sociology, of anthropology, and of history – during my absence from this site; and I’d like to dedicate this specific, albeit brief, article towards the ‘little guys’ in history.
As a historian, I feel as if the foundation to my personal life is to record and preserve the stories of every individual that I can. Contrary to popular belief in and outside my field, the profession’s goal is to remember as much as possible. I care about the average “statistics” in society just as much as, if not more than, the Abraham Lincolns and Adolf Hitlers that exist in our chronological history.
I care about recording the everyday, not so extraordinary aspects of our lives – not out of sheer interest, but to preserve them for future generations to let them know what life was like 50, 100, 150 years ago when it is there turn to live. Sure, I care about the political revolutions and the social movements…but those will go down and be remembered in history before the typical, seemingly “normal” things.
In the last few months, I’ve found myself sitting in colloquiums that discussed the individualism of oral interviews, and how the seemingly “normal” things that can be considered ‘tedious’ by us now won’t be so ‘tedious in the future. The following argument presented in the colloquium has stuck with me: not so long ago in human history, people had to get up to change the channel on the typical television.
Nowadays, we have access to remote controls that do this from the comfort of our couches. There are people, myself included, who have never had to get up to get up and change the channel. There are people who will never know that people once had to get up to do such a meaningless task, just as there will (eventually) be people who will never see a television set due to the ultimate popularity of the internet and online streaming websites.
I have recently found myself working on a research paper and analysis on a diary that a woman from the late 1700’s had spent three decades writing. This paper will eventually be posted on this site (and a link will be provided here if I happen to remember to edit this specific post), but once again I’ve found myself looking at individualism within an otherwise institutionalized field of study. The life of this woman was recorded through her own chicken-scratch thoughts; but without this diary, the ‘average woman’s’ perspective of the early colonial age would have been lost to the tests of time.
Historians – both public and academic – have to preserve these small, seemingly meaningless Trivial Pursuit questions. So, do us a favor! Make as many “primary sources” as you can while still having fun on social media. It is now possible to cite Tweets using MLA and Chicago Style, so it appears that scholars are already starting to catch on.
So go on, take pictures of the minuscule features in your life. The future will thank you, I guarantee it!