WHY History Nerds…?

‘History nerds’. Doesn’t that sound a bit demeaning? Doesn’t it evoke guys with thick eye-glasses who look like Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor? And who get obsessed with a level of detail that quickly sends the uninitiated ‘non-expert’ into convulsive boredom?

That’s one way of looking at it. Another is to consider that going into detail is not always as superfluous as it may seem. It could even be argued that cultivating one’s capacity to engage with the anodyne and the anecdotal, without getting bogged down, is essential.

One of the criticisms one can level at many of the more ‘practically-enclined’ disciplines (such as management, economics, psychology or political science) is that their handy theories – with which they think they can explain what is happening in the world – are often based on overlooking inconvenient facts that don’t fit in. This could never happen to the history nerd who, most of the time, is not very bothered by theory. The history nerd knows that the ‘devil is in the detail’. And that many people do not wade in deep enough…

As Aristotle already found, to attain the ‘golden mean’ we need to find the right balance. And this is what accomplished historians do – nurturing the capacity to weigh and nuance, and relating the innocuous to the bigger picture.

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An irreverently short bio

I am a historian and leadership professor from the heart of Europe, where history began pursuing me over 40 years ago. Like other afflictions, it began innocently enough – little me taking his hard-earned pocket money to the local toy shop, to buy sets of Airfix ‘Battle of Waterloo’ plastic soldiers, and then, on his return home, painting them in red, blue, green or grey.

The condition got more serious when I – aged 9 – followed up with a first purchase of a tome on the arms and uniforms of the Napoleonic era. By this time it was already too late: I had been hooked to the hard drug of history by unscrupulous toy manufacturers and militaria publishers, remaining a committed addict ever since…

A new phase occurred 2 years later, when I devoured my first historical novels – Quo Vadis, Ben Hur, The Count of Monte Christo and countless others (typically, World War II escape stories whose titles I no longer recall).

From there it was only a short step to tackling hardcore histories: Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Barbarians, Christians, Byzantines, Crusaders, Conquistadors, Early Modern Age Inventors, Explorers, Revolutionaries, Empire-builders, First World War, Second World War, Cold War – an insatiable appetite for history books had taken hold of me…

The purpose of this site is to show you, dear reader and listener, just how weird and wonderful it can get… Do not pity us history nerds, we have only ourselves to blame!

Paul W. Sanders PhD (Cantab), Fellow of the Royal Historical Society London

For longer bio, check https://neoma-bs.academia.edu/PaulSanders

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