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Why We Need Quirky History

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

Hi, I'm TK! I hate history textbooks. Ok, hate is a strong word but I seriously dislike most of them. They’re too neat and sterilised. You go through the chapters one by one and each comes to an organised end. Usually, you’re presented with a starchy historical figure that you can’t relate to because they’re presented as this other-worldy human that has never done anything in their life other than pop-up and change history.

What's worse is the history we learn in school that leaves out the juicy parts, the history with jagged edges that don’t fit in nicely...but those are the best and most important bits. Those are the things that humanise history and make us feel connected to those black-and-white images that seem so far removed from our daily lives. So why do we learn history that way? Why do we leave out the parts that make us laugh or cringe, e.g. when the Pope excommunicated all cats from the Catholic Church? Or when archeologists found raunchy flying penis statues in Pompeii?! Now, I’m no expert but after years of studying and teaching history I’ve come up with an idea as to why: the over-academification (not a real word) of history.

Academia is an exclusive place surrounded by an ivory wall. Historically if you couldn’t afford it or you were not a member of the club, your access to history was limited. Throughout history, we plebs would learn what was filtered through that ivory tower and those crusty (mostly white male) academics. And through this filter, they used history as a tool. They couldn’t possibly allow regular people to know about President Harding calling his penis "Jerry" or the fact that the most prolific pirate in history was a Chinese Woman. Neh neh friend, the image of powerful perfect founding fathers and male dominance was and is much more useful to them. So history was stripped, cleaned off, and polished off its jagged bits. We couldn’t have the parts that made us laugh or get pissed off. For the most part, you had to go to university to learn about the history that wasn’t in school textbooks, and talking about the scandalous history like the victorian nipple rings or tattoos in university was not a scholarly thing to do.

Thankfully the ivory wall is coming down and people have more access to history that feels more human. Through podcasts, TikTok, Instagram, more diverse documentaries, and historians that don’t fit the white male mould, we are finally given access to the stories that have been glossed over and sanitised. But why is this important? Why do we need to know that a large number of fighting Vikings dyed their hair blonde or that forks were once considered a tool of the devil? Simply because both those things are simultaneously weird and 100% true, which is exactly how humans are. History is the story of us, of you and me. We need to know that for centuries humans have been exactly like humans are now: weird, quirky, creative, and messy.

TK, the host of 'For The Love of History' podcast

Quirky Facts for the road:

1. During World War II, a Great Dane named Juliana was awarded the Blue Cross Medal. She extinguished an incendiary bomb by taking a little wee on it!

2. Cleopatra wasn’t actually Egyptian! She was Greek!

3. Forks were once considered tools of the devil.

4. A Pope once excommunicated all cats for being witches.

5. The University of Oxford is older than the Aztec Empire.


People, you MUST learn more about:

1. Empress Jingu

2. The Dahomey Amazon Warriors

3. Eleanor Rykener

and lastly...

Lovers of weird and wonderful history, these are must-follow accounts:

Please see more of TK's exposure of weird history on her podcast website or her TikTok @4theloveofhistory and of course, her Instagram @fortheloveof_historypodcast .


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