Learning the hard way

I didn’t enjoy history much at school. We would trudge into the classroom knowing the next forty minutes would last a fortnight while we listened to Mrs Smith read from a large tome in a monotonous drawl. There was no engagement or much attempt at actual teaching, the main objective of the lesson being to make it to the bell without falling asleep. Another serious drawback was that beginning as she did with the Romans, at the rate of say ten pages a lesson the five-year syllabus was barely going to make it to the Tudors, leaving an embarrassing gap in our understanding of the last five hundred years.

I caught up later, funnily enough by reading history books, and quickly realised that the dates of reigning monarchs so beloved by Mrs Smith were one small aspect of an immense and fascinating subject. House history touches many of these facets at a local level: architectural style and building development; personal stories of a property’s owners and occupiers; local occupations, trade and commerce; communities; agriculture; politics and religion. Throw in a few court cases and the odd scandal and you have the ingredients for a fascinating story with the potential to delight and interest many of the property’s present and future inhabitants.

I just wish we could have done it at school.

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