History as Entertainment

As 2012 ends, many people are looking back toward history rather than ahead. After all, what is ahead for us except the dreaded “fiscal cliff” a phrase designed to frighten us all. One of the major entertainment successes of the fall, aside from the inevitable fantasies of hobbits and talking animals, has been the story of Abraham Lincoln and his successful handling of a government crisis. RunningtheMachine-LincAdminThe popularity of this movie has pushed the history book on which it was based Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals to the top of the bestseller list here in San Francisco. It isn’t often that the general public agrees that history can be fascinating and can perhaps even give us insight into what is going on in the world today. We’ll never know how Lincoln would have handled the current fiscal crisis, but seeing how the men in that rambunctious Congress is certainly a reminder of what is going on in Washington today.

This sudden surge of interest in historical figures has cheered me as I look over the year’s progress in this blog. History is filled with figures who can both entertain and enlighten us. It’s a pleasure to read more about them and get to know them. Understanding how they thought and acted sheds a new light on what’s going on in our own world. One of the people who has been introducing women’s history to audiences for years is Bonnie Hurd Smith whose website and blog describe her busy life helping businesses and nonprofits craft their histories into stories for the public. Her book “We Believe in You” tells the stories of twelve women who made their mark on American history. If you don’t know her work, 2013 is a good time to learn about it.