It’s not that the details aren’t important, but once you’ve got the details worked out, your job is only half done.  Calling a list of facts “history” is like calling a heap of sheet metal and bolts a “car”.


53 thoughts on “Details

  1. (I know I sound crazy but now that Iam free, Ifind that it is painful to talk to people any other way)
    (alls meaning, painful defined as against mytruefreedom -Speak out now defined as you are free to stop reading,reply to state your case.. not in a mean way or anything it’s simply a Fact)
    This is my court
    I have found this to be true,
    Words, have lost the meaning they once had.
    If you find this to be false, Speak out now.

    Isee, your path, Iam, on it now.
    Great Joy To Usall

    • Thanks for your comment. Another way I put it to my students is: facts are the price of admission. They get you in the door so you can start doing the really interesting work. I think that’s true of any field.

  2. Nice illustration of your point! But there are certainly challenges in establishing causal links in history, and a good number of amateurs have simplistic, non-nuanced views on historical chain of events…

    • Thank you. It’s true, causality is hard. Even as a professional historian, I have to keep reminding myself that people in the past were not any less complicated in their goals and motivations than people are today.

  3. I love how simply you put it with the illustration and two sentences. I think we all know way too many people who are like this in our lives… good thing none of them are my closest friends! 😛

    • History, unfortunately, is an easy subject to teach badly, the “names and dates, kings and battles” style we all know too well. We have to remember that facts are essential, but they are only the price of admission. They get you in the door so you can start doing the interesting work. Just like learning the alphabet is the price of admission for enjoying great literature and poetry, and learning to count is the price of admission for doing serious mathematics.

      • Hahaha, pretty sweet to think about it that way. 🙂 My historical education nowadays is a lot about general stuff happening in history, instead of all of the rote memorization of dates, yet I still never learn about things that I find really interesting. What I HAVE found interesting was the book Guns, Germs, and Steel, which linked together a ton of concepts in history to explain the present. I wish my education was more like that book. 😛

  4. Short and sweet and still gets the idea across. I like this post a lot! Like the saying goes “if only our tongues were made of glass, how much more careful we would be when speaking.”

  5. It could also be the difference between an extrovert and an introvert. Read Susan Cain’s Quiet — fascinating book. I am looking at friends, family and colleagues differently now. Extroverts will often react quickly or “perform.” Introverts, take time, provide more thoughtful responses. But I get your point. 🙂 Congrats on being “freshly pressed.”

    • Quiet was a marvelous book. I’m very glad to have read it. I can certainly see the comparison. Thanks for the comment!

  6. This is great. It made me think of teaching English and how the rules of grammar are only half the story. You have to know why they might be important, or ‘why the details matter’. Excellent!

  7. I love this! Throughout elementary school and all through high school, history was probably my least favorite subject (well, after biology). I hated memorizing the names of England’s royalty and the date of such and such battle. Then I got to college, and the professor of my freshman history class debunked the idea that history was about names and dates, showing that it was more about understanding the stories, why they were important and why things happened the way that we did, and what we could learn from them. I went from hating the subject to studying it in grad school. 🙂

  8. Pingback: Details | Universal Truth

  9. Being genuine is far better than being eloquent. Most people try to impress the masses by the choice of words they use (which is good as well) but there’s a better way to do it. This post is so simple but very direct!

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