I have been reminded a few times recently that history is relative. The more distance there is between you and the event, the more objectively you can analyze the situation. Most Tufts students have taken at least one class where they have to analyze a historical situation and explain the causes or the consequences of the event.
Some of the events that have been discussed in my classes include 9/11, the Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the commercialization of the internet. These are all events that are now written about in textbooks and discussed as case studies in various classes. These are all events that I watched happen. This does not make me better at analyzing what happened or how they affected the world. However, it does give me a better idea of how these events affected my life and the lives of the people around me. For me, it is personal.
I may not be able to tell you what military tactics were used during Operation Desert Storm, but I can tell you what people were talking about. I remember watching the news and not understanding what was going on, and learning later why the war started — or at least what was being written down.
I say this because resources can be the people around you.
I did a project years ago where I had to interview a veteran. I knew the facts from my textbook. I know when the war started and ended. I knew all the major battles and the major political figures. Five minutes into that interview, I realized that I knew nothing.
The veteran told me about his life and his family. He told me about his friends, both living and dead. He told me about a young man who was scared to go to war but knew he had to. He told me about the war from his point of view. It was nothing like what I had read.
He was a World War II veteran. His experience made me look at the war in a very different light. Now, it was personal.
As I get older, I think about all the personal moments that I have and the events I have witnessed. I don’t think I’m nearly as interesting as a World War II veteran, but I hope that I become a resource for someone in the future.
History is only one of many things that the people around you can be a resource for. There are places that you have never been and food you have never eaten. There are always things you have not done and things you have yet to do. For someone else, you could be a resource, too.
People at Tufts have always told me to use my resources, to get the most that I can out of what I’m given. I’m passing on that same advice to you.
The next time you’re looking for a paper topic, think about this: History is not just a fact in a book. For someone, it is personal.