history pragmatic historian

Bite-Sized History for Immediate Use

I follow a fabulous #twitterstorian on Twitter. A #twitterstorian is simply a historian on Twitter, one who is willing to share history on the site. This particular #twitterstorian writes such impressive history threads that I’ve been moved to recommend her.

She is Heather Cox Richardson and she describes herself as a “Historian. Author. Professor. Budding Curmudgeon.” (In this day and age, I, too, proudly belong in the Budding Curmudgeon Club.)

Heather’s Twitter threads are not just informative about aspects of history most of us have no knowledge of, they go beyond mere entertainment to provide the historical underpinnings of and comparisons to events of today.

One of her recent examples discusses how Donald Trump’s threats regarding the caravan of migrants making their way to Mexico so that he could sway his supporters to vote in the midterm elections has a parallel to Benjamin Harrison’s use of troops against the Lakota in 1890 … also to sway midterm elections.

In 20 tweets, Heather summarizes a complex history with wide-ranging effects that continue to manifest today. Not only does this history indicate the previous use of fear-mongering by a president, it shows the effects of gerrymandering and tariff shenanigans. And, the direct effects of Harrison’s action continue to be felt today by the Lakota.

In order to use history in an expedient fashion for today’s issues, we need people like Heather Cox Richardson to intelligently summarize complex history. Most of us simply don’t have time to dig up historical resources, whether online or in libraries or archives, and read them deeply enough to make connections and inferences that will help us decide whether past events are applicable to today.

To use history in this way, it has to be bite-sized, but it also has to have some meat to it. These mini-histories need to be densely nutritious like cashews, rather than provide empty calories like Tootsie Rolls. Heather’s Twitter threads are nutritious and fortified with additional links and images.

If you use Twitter, I highly recommend you follow Heather (she’s @HC_Richardson). You can look for other historians on Twitter by searching for #twitterstorian.

Are there any historians you’d recommend on Twitter? Please share in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Bite-Sized History for Immediate Use”

  1. Honestly, Heather is the primary reason I’ve moved to Twitter vice Facebook for my social media news and informed commentary. She and the larger body of #twitterstorians make the platform far more engaging than the meme-driven, shouting matches that have overtaken my FB feed. There are, of course, those on Twitter who will go beyond civil debate and resort to name calling and slurs (just ask historian Seth Cotlar (@SethCotlar) regarding his recent posts on the capitalism of angry patriotism, or probably any and all of the women #twitterstorians who speak out on anything that might elicit a counterpoint since misogynistic blowhards are everywhere ). However, most of the discussions are better informed and illuminating.

  2. Hi, E.R. – Thanks for your comment. Yes, I agree with your assessment of Facebook. It’s not pleasant to have to unfollow someone that is a relative, friend or acquaintance due to shouting matches. Plus, FB itself is such a cesspool of unethical behavior and annoying timeline antics that I’ve been opting for other social media sites in the past year. Twitter can be a fire hose of updates and rotten comments, but it’s much easier to deal with both of these there. (Thank goodness for mute, block, and unfollow!)

    I will have to check out Seth Cotlar. His post on the capitalism of angry patriotism sounds fascinating. Thanks for the recommendation!

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