The Present: An Accumulation of Past Histories

When considering events from the past and their influences, individuals often find themselves stuck in the typical one-dimensional arena of “History” rather than “histories.” Consider this, if someone approached you and asked for you to tell them everything you know about the year 1945, your answer would probably pertain to World War II. Chances are you wouldn’t say, “1945 was the year the ENIAC (the first general purpose electronic computer) was built,”[1] or “the year teen magazine Seventeen was established,”[2] even though these are historical events too. Some past events are ignored because most people tend to think of history in terms of massive events. To understand why individuals should think of the past in terms of “histories,” and not “History,” the definition of the two terms must be distinguished. “Histories” in this statement is a terminology for all past events. The construction of the ENIAC, the establishment of Seventeen Magazine, and the end of World War II are all part of “histories.” “History” (in singular form and with an capital H), on the contrary, only encompasses a few significant events that have noticeably contributed to the present, so it does not include smaller events. Therefore, when contemplating the legacy of the past, individuals should look at the big picture: “histories,” rather than a few significant events because the legacy left behind is not the result of a few selected events, but the result of numerous happenings.

An example of this is the phenomenon, Juvenile Delinquency. Juvenile Delinquency is a common term but was not coined until 1945, the same year Seventeen Magazine was published. The establishment of Seventeen Magazine seems like a trivial sector in history seeing as it was the same year World War II ended but the establishment of this magazine contributed to the beginning of an era of adolescent rebellion.  With their fathers off at war and their mothers working, teenagers lacked parental figures and found financial independency because, “employment was readily available.”[3] Companies began directing their advertisements at teens who seeked recognition from sources such as their peers and the music and media industry. The ever-growing presence of independent teenagers grew into the phenomenon known as Juvenile Delinquency. Today, this term pertains more to the justice system but it originated in the mid 1940s. Evidently, the year 1945 was not only important for marking the end to World War II, but also the start of acknowledging adolescent rebellious behavior. To observe past events in terms of History rather than histories would be depriving the contributions of other historical events. In this case, both the looming War and advancement in adolescent magazines contributed to the rising of Juvenile Delinquency. This example also illustrates the importance of small singular events in history. The publication of Seventeen Magazine was a small event but it indirectly contributed to a larger phenomenon. For this reason, it is important to think in terms of histories, rather than History when considering the weight the past has on the present.  Popular culture and technological advancement are as much a part of history as military affairs are and one shouldn’t disregard its importance.

Perconius once said, “The accumulation of small things will eventually lead to big things.” We can extend this statement to state the present is shaped by an accumulation of past events. Events, no matter how insignificant have contributed in one way or another to the present. Therefore, when contemplating the legacy of the past, individuals should always consider the big picture, histories over History.


[1]           Richey, Kevin W. “The ENIAC.” CS Dept. NSF-Supported Education Infrastructure  Project / Ei.cs.vt.edu. 16 Feb. 1997. Web. 19 Jan. 2012. <http://ei.cs.vt.edu/~history/ENIAC.Richey.HTML&gt;.

[2]           Goodwin, Sue. “1940-1949.” American Cultural History. Lone Star College-

Kingwood Library, 1999. Web. 7 Feb. 2011.

[3]           Goodwin, Sue. “1940-1949.” American Cultural History. Lone Star College-Kingwood Library, 1999. Web. 7 Feb. 2011.

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