Writing Assignment: Write Three Questions About History

by Randy Murray on June 13, 2014

How did we get here? Is the past a meaningless mystery? Did anyone try this before?

I find that one of the best ways for getting someone interested in history is to start asking questions. There are so many great stories in history and far more history books out there than most people can imagine. For example, your typical American knows next to nothing about Chinese and Japanese history, even though they’ve done a remarkable job of documenting their past and keeping it safe (perhaps better than Europe has done over the same period).

Start asking questions. And then start digging.

This past week I published a short review of two history books and presented some questions of my own.

  • Why does the U.S. have a “special” relationship with England and yet look at the French with suspicion and disdain (especially when we fought TWO wars to get the English our of our hair and the French were essential in us gaining our freedom)?
  • What really caused the World Wars?
  • Was Napoleon a good guy or a bad guy? And what did he have to do with the world wars?
  • Was the South in the American Civil war in any way justified for their secession and launch of war?
  • And what exactly happened in China over the last three thousand years or so?’

Do you know the answers to these questions? Do they even have answers that can be know? Or does an answer require a book-length exploration, maybe even a library-sized answer?

It’s time for you to ask a few questions for yourself.

For today’s assignment write three questions about the present world that will require a look at history to discover the sources and motivations behind today’s events. Make each question as simple and direct as possible. You can start with a question that you believe you already know the answer to, but be sure to ask at least two questions that you’re not sure about.

Make your questions pointed and specific. Present them in such a way that a librarian or historian (or fellow history enthusiast such as myself) might be able to suggest a place for you to start looking.

Do not be afraid to ask big questions. Here’s a big one that I’m currently grappling with:

  • Was General Robert E. Lee guilty of treason against the United States of America?

Ask your questions. Then, for bonus points, start digging for answers. Have fun!

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