Sunday, April 27, 2014

Final Reflection: Changing History

This will be my last post for this blog, and I just wanted to close out this record of my semester's research for Dr. Bucholz with a brief reflection on the work I've done.
I'll start, unsurprisingly, with history. History, as I have come to learn over my four years at Loyola, is a bit of a tricky word. It's tricky because it is one word that represents two very different concepts: history can mean the events of the past themselves (what happened, when it happened, who did it, etc.); and history as our record, story, and interpretation of those events. The work that I've been doing for Dr. Bucholz deals, I think, with both types, but particularly with the second notion of history, our records and presentation of the past. Generally, in the past, history was only concerned with the doings of the great or notable people: kings, generals, statesmen, religious leaders, great minds, genius artists, etc. Accordingly, past lists of officials of the English courts tended to focus mainly on the great people at court: the King, the Queen, various Princes and Princesses, as well as the various Earls, Duchesses, Knights, and Esquires who formed the social heart of the court. However, the goal of Professor Bucholz's project (and thus the focus of much of my grunt work) is to create a list of court officials that looks beyond just all these beautiful and noble people flitting around Westminster, Hampton Court, and St. James' and to uncover the hundreds of common working people who did much of the work that allowed the courts to function. This is in keeping with the fairly recent trends of social and popular history that have worked to shift the focus of history and historical study away from exclusive focus on the "great", and into a broader view of society as a whole, with a particular emphasis on those who have so often been left out of the historical picture: the workers, the servants, and the great common mass of humanity.
Thus, by charting the names and careers of all of the various working people who made up the courts (the laundresses, the grooms, the watermen, the footmen, and even our friends the turnbrooches) and ensuring their names are recorded for posterity along with the Earls and Princes and Dukes, I have helped create a new and different record of the past, have worked to bring a broader focus to the study of the court, and have, in my own small way, changed history.
I'd like to thank Dr. Bucholz for allowing me this excellent opportunity to help him in his research and to gain some actual experience in the field, and Dr. Roberts for his excellent work in coordinating and advising me and my fellow students throughout the course of this year's History 398 class.

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