A Short History of Jan Hus, the Protestant Leader You Never Heard of, or, Martin Luther Jacked Hus’s Whole Style

So because it is 2017, we are currently living through a cruel time in which people are attempting to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. This, in and of itself is problematic as hell, because it feeds into the idea that the study of history is a study of Great Men™ who came along in a manly way and moved the world forward. That ain’t the case. History is really more of a study of a number of trends. It’s looking at a million pieces of day-to-day writing and interpreting them in their context. Sure, dudes came along who – given this context – were able to influence society. However, society as a whole was not a blank slate, just waiting for some guy to come swing his dick around in order to change course.

This approach also massively privileges not just dudes, but *specifically* white dudes from Western Europe. Not because they necessarily achieved more than dudes from other parts of the world (AHEM – Alexander the Great v. Genghis Khan), BUT because the West has dominated the political sphere since the age of colonialism and therefore privileges its own history above the history of other places.

A part of this is a collective social tendency to privilege one’s one society because one is a part of it. We can’t escape culture, even if we can critique it. Another part of this is that historians are basic too, and don’t want to learn the other languages that it takes in order to do the work to study certain things.

The lionisation of Martin Luther and Reformation is a perfect example of how major social and religious movements get lost in the Great Men narrative in order to allow for ease of research.

Continue reading “A Short History of Jan Hus, the Protestant Leader You Never Heard of, or, Martin Luther Jacked Hus’s Whole Style”


History is a discipline, not a virtue


There has been much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over the past few days on the part of white supremacists who suddenly have a heart-felt attachment to the ‘history’ of Confederate monuments in the United States. The monuments, they argue, must be preserved because they honour the legacy of a bunch of guys who lost a war to enslave other people and participation trophies are important. Never mind that the majority of Confederate monuments have not survived to us from the American Civil War, and were erected during the Jim Crow era of the twentieth century. No no! They must be preserved, in situ, because they are a part of history.

I regret to inform you that this thinking makes no sense to actual historians.

The sudden cri de coeur about the importance of preserving ‘history’ is absurd because history isn’t the act of simply remembering a series of events. It is the act of combing through documents and artefacts from another era and analysing them. We then use this analysis to inform our view of how society functioned at that particular time, and how people lived within it. A statue is not, therefore, in and of itself, valuable because it recounts a particular time. It is valuable because it tells us about the values of the people who erected it.

Continue reading “History is a discipline, not a virtue”