May 2017

History, our storyHistory, our story

Is history a science or an art form? It's a well known and – within certain circles – a frequently debated question. Science deals with objective facts and art develops out of subjective interpretation, and historians straddle the two, so the answer is presumably a combination of science and art. Sometimes a history lesson will be a factual insight into the cause of an event, at other times it will be an exploration of its meaning, and one without the other would leave our knowledge of the past somewhat lacking.

When it comes to local history, nothing piques the interest of a community like reminiscing about High Street shops. Like many urban areas with a village atmosphere, there is a strong bond here between residents and their main shopping street. It's why campaigns to prevent certain changes to High Street life are fought so hard, and it's why there are such strong views about the businesses that trade there. From Woolworths to Dunhams, Sketchleys and Bartons the Bakers, there are facts and figures that make up the history of local shopping, but there are also stories, memories and real lives that define it.

Whether celebrating the anniversary of a 20-year-old community group, being nostalgic about our High Street or turning back time even further to explore local heritage, history lessons can take a variety of forms. And the history teachers are not always professors, or even teachers; they may be members of our communities, those who were part of the events in question or anyone sharing a memory with a friend. We are all students in the classroom of local history and, perhaps more importantly, we are all potential teachers.