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'To use history for recreation is to misuse it'. Discuss

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Introduction

'To use history for recreation is to misuse it'. Discuss An increased interest in historical knowledge has grown significantly over the last few years. Public history such as museums and places with heritage interest are high on the list of recreational activities and for many people watching television drama and documentaries or reading a historical novel is the only way that they will gain any knowledge of the cultures and events of past times. Watching television is a popular pastime and it allows for the presentation of historical knowledge to the masses without the need for a deep academic understanding. History presented through the television can be produced with a specific audience in mind; war stories for men, easy and fun history for school children; presented in a way that grabs the attention of its intended target. Visiting museums and seeing the artefacts can form our ideas of what the people of the past were like and how they lived their lives and although the items are not usually situated in the context from which they came we are still able to get some idea of the sense of the past. ...read more.

Middle

Simon Schama believes that history on television is beneficial as it gives 'gifts of freedom, empathy and the possibility of reconstituting community'8 and by that he means that television history creates a greater understanding of how people lived and by recognising that they were just like the viewers themselves and experiencing similar social and family situations gives the viewers a sense of owning or belonging to history and wanting to preserve it. Schama's presentation skills are challenged by Will Hutton who claims that 'Schama's method of telling history does not allow us to establish how events are grounded in economic and social movements'9 and to him is a fundamental flaw in the presentation of history through television. Hutton believes that Schama delivers history with too much of a personal view and that 'instances are connected not by some underpinning theory or logic, but by Schama's magic; they are made coherent only by his narrative'10 but this is exactly how the viewers need it to be; clear and narrated in a style that makes it understandable and enjoyable. Schama's history documentaries are highly popular and the viewers are able to relate to the historical details and enjoy the knowledge unlike an academic textbook which is written ...read more.

Conclusion

Historians are themselves divided on whether or not history as a recreational pursuit is a misuse and as reported by Woodward some believe that history on television is better than the education received through schools. Academics such as 'Daniel Power, lecturer in medieval history at Sheffield, said: "TV history gives them a better sense of ... history than A-levels."'16 suggesting that television history is beneficial because it is more accessible and that history taught in schools is too traditional to be enjoyable. It is evident that if something is enjoyable it will be remembered and may be why public history is so successful. To use history as recreation it to misuse it suggests that history should only be accessible through the academic facilities but it is clear from the popularity of television programmes, museums and other areas of public history that the public disagree. History as recreation is a useful and effective medium for informing the public on events and cultures of the past which might otherwise be inaccessible to them. The academics may disagree that recreational history is useful and believe that it has trivialised and glamorised it and it may sometimes appear that way but this is what the viewing public desire. Misuse or not history is still being experienced and shared in an enjoyable and accessible way. ...read more.

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