Technically speaking, history itself cannot be owned.  However, I keep hearing and reading various people lauding some group as “truly owning history.”  Therefore, I decided to write this (relatively) short piece presenting my side of the argument.

Some people claim that it is politicians who own history, and politicians will even claim that “we are making history today,” when speaking of some “revolutionary” new piece of legislation.  Personally, I find the idea that politicians, at least in the western world, have that much influence over history to be laughable.  The icing on the cake is former U.S. President Barack Obama repeatedly using the phrases “right side of history” and “wrong side of history,” as if history is always moving in the same direction.  Historians themselves frequently use the phrase “changing the course of history,” when referring to an event that is not in line with the trends of the day.

The next two groups of people go hand-in-hand regarding their influence over history.  Among each of them, there those who claim that they can have influence on their own, and those who claim that one group’s contributions to history are meaningless without the other group’s contributions.  The groups I am speaking of are the scientists and inventors.  Certainly the latter view, that their contributions are interdependent, is correct today, but less than a century ago, that was not the case.

Let us begin with the inventors, as they have been around a lot longer than modern scientists.  If you don’t believe me, check out this video by Primitive Technology.  In it, he goes from fanning a fire by hand, to using a blower to smelt iron.  Whoever first did this back in the Bronze Age was a great inventor, and deserves the same recognition as the likes of Thomas Newcomen (inventor of the first practical steam engine in 1712).  One could argue that the discoverer of iron owns the past 2800 years of history (give or take a few centuries, as the Iron Age did not begin at the same time in all parts of the world).

Modern science, i.e. the theoretical analysis of natural processes, began during the 16th century.  Prior to that, anyone who could possibly be considered a scientist was also an inventor, or a “pragmatist.”  For the better part of three centuries, scientists and inventors alike used the “no true Scotsman” fallacy to exclude those who engaged in the “opposite” practise.  “No true scientist builds his own devices,” they would say, “no true inventor spends hours performing calculations before designing something,” others would say.  If you think this is ridiculous, that’s because it is, at least by today’s standards.  These days, a scientist’s work is almost completely useless without an inventor to put the scientific findings to work (save in the field of theoretical physics, of course).

So does that mean that engineers (who invented the field of engineering itself during the early days of the railroad) own history, because they work theoretically and pragmatically?  Are you kidding?  The vast majority of engineers do not work for themselves.  They bring other people’s ideas to life, and are usually the first to be scolded for saying that something can’t be done with the available tools (if at all).  So what about the people with ideas who employ engineers?

Let’s go back to the politicians.  And the Bronze Age.  Conquerers such as Sargon of Akkad certainly had their influence, but their conquests would be nothing if there was no-one to spread the word.  “The pen is mightier that the sword,” I think makes my point best.  Writers own history, if anyone does.  The Aztecs knew this, and whenever a new Aztec emperor seized power, his first act would be to break the hands of all the old emperor’s scribes.  Modern science fiction authors all know this as well, and the two names that immediately come to my mind are George Orwell and Ray Bradbury, the latter of whom said “you don’t need to burn books to destroy a culture, just get people to stop reading them.”  As for the former, well, if everyone in my audience has read 1984, I don’t think I need to elaborate.  Even non-science-fiction authors know this: in George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire, news of the failed rebellion against the House of Lannister travels far and wide through the song “The Rains of Castamere.”  Again, I won’t go into detail, given the popularity of the television adaptation, everyone probably knows the story by now.

So, why am I bothering to write about this?  Mainly because I am so sick of hearing about it.  History is what we make of it.  Even ancient history isn’t constant, because archaeologists are continually making discoveries that change the story.  After IngSoc collapses under the weight of its own paranoia, archaeologists of 2984 will undoubtedly find that physical evidence does not match written history at all.  In our own world, identity politics is getting in the way of truth, both scientific and historical.  I will not go on a rant about this, mainly because lots of people on YouTube have already done that.

I think I’m done with this sort of topic for a while.  My main purpose was to give some indication of what kind of person I am, since I am not very good at describing myself, concisely or otherwise.  I have some models coming in soon from Shapeways that relate to The Nine Empires, so that will probably be what I write about next.

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