Real People's History

Couldn't sleep at all last night, and it's all because of history. Caught a little bit of Charlie Rose and a wonderful discussion of the Higgs bosun before drifting blissfully off, only to find myself awake at 2:30 or so. The episode of Sherlock Holmes then showing was a little too dramatic for sleep inducement, so I cruised a few channels looking for something interesting enough to keep my own thoughts at bay but soporific enough to send me back where I belonged, when I chanced upon this running on the other PBS station.

Michael Wood's was fascinating, introducing real ancestors of real people in a real English village, tracing them from Roman times to the present, and interpreting the broader scope of English history through their lives. By the time he was explaining the medieval open field system and an ancient concept of the jury, I wasn't sleepy anymore. They ran two whole episodes.

As it happens, I recently watched - it's available on YouTube in 1/4 hour segments - and I highly recommend both. Even if you don't happen to share my love for English history. Because I was struck, over and over, by the parallels between us, between the dynamics of other times and our own.

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I had the bright idea to do something similar. I wanted to trace the history of a particular street in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a street that had seen taverns become soda parlors or speakeasy's and back again. Where the tire place down the street had once been a blacksmith's shop. Where the paint store over which I lived was once a thriving grocery store and community gathering place. Where real people had lived and how they had changed - or not - with the times. I got a good start on it and then I was, as they say, overtaken by events.

I'll be looking for the rest of Michael Wood's Story of England - if my sleep-deprived brain remembers correctly, there's another episode on tonight at 8. And if you want to get an idea of how the big picture played on the Main Streets of the past, I recommend that you do likewise.