Have you heard of the book “1066 and All That?” It’s a wonderful book. It was written in the 1960s, and poked fun at the way (British) history was taught back then.
The last sentence ended, “…and history came to a full stop”.
History, it is easy to feel, is all in the past. It is the story of how we came to be as we are today, and that we are therefore separate from it. But of course we aren’t; the times in which we are living today will of course be studied earnestly by history students in the future.
I personally first gained a real sense that the times I was living in were part of history was when the Berlin Wall fell, in 1989. Before that, the Communist block had been a fixed part of my universe; now it was disappearing. This was an undoubted historical event.
Since then the rise of China as an economic superpower has really brought home to us in the West that the flow of world history can turn: the tide which had brought Europe and America to the fore was now ebbing. The events of 9/11 and all that followed from that terrible morning have underscored the fact that world history looks very different in different parts of the world. And the economic downturn since 2008 will undoubtedly be “compared and contrasted” with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression.
None of this is rocket science, but the great migration from the Middle East and Africa which we are witnessing right now has brought it very much to the forefront of my mind. This is history in the making, and what will come from it is anyone’s guess.