We spent quite a few years on school benches (well, on chairs) listening to our history teachers teach us a whole bunch of fascinating stuff about our more or less distant ancestors. Honestly, it’s one of our fondest memories. But that doesn’t stop us from thinking there were a few holes in the history curriculum. And if, of course, we can’t learn EVERYTHING in a few years of class, there are two or three little things that we would have liked to discover at the time to have a more exact vision of History.
1. That the discovery of the Americas probably resulted in huge massacres
Let’s keep a little nuance so as not to kill each other in the comments: on the one hand, we begin to have a new look at the discovery of the Americas and we explain that the Spanish colonists perpetuated massacres among the natives. On the other, we have the Spanish historians who generally deny this version and instead explain the deaths of natives by the epidemics that the colonizers brought with them. The question is complex, but what is certain is that we were never told that Christopher Columbus and his buddies had potentially hijacked heaps of premises. It’s true that it’s always a sensitive subject to speak negatively of a mythical figure like Christopher Columbus, but hey, it could have been interesting.
2. That the pharaohs of Egypt had lots of different origins
In class, we always had the image of Egyptian pharaohs of Egyptian origin (which seemed rather logical to us). It was learned only later that Cleopatra came from a Macedonian dynasty, and that there were also Persian, Libyan, Nubian, Greek and even Roman pharaohs. So, we say to ourselves that we have been taught a somewhat simplistic vision of the thing, like what the pharaohs were demi-gods who naturally reigned over their country when the reality is much more interesting.
3. That our museum collections are made up of a lot of stuff stolen from other countries
The best illustration of this point is the dispute between Greece and the British Museum over several elements of the Acropolis. The Greeks want to recover several works which are held (illegally, according to them) by the English, among which the friezes of the Parthenon or the Caryatids of the Erechtheion. Other States are claiming works from France, and from many other countries which have made use of them everywhere. In short, everything is to be studied on a case-by-case basis, but what is certain is that there has been a lot of looting and that we could talk about it in progress.
4. That the colonizing countries have done anything with the borders in Africa
We were well taught that colonization was a big deal, but we dwelled much less on the hasty cutting up of Africa during the Berlin Conference. Without going into details, European countries have drawn borders anyhow without respecting the territories of the different local ethnic groups, which subsequently caused some tensions / wars / genocides. It’s still important to know.
5. That Prehistory is much longer and more interesting than what we have been shown
Our History teachers obviously explained to us that History began with the first traces of writing found around 3600 BC, but that doesn’t prevent us from being a little frustrated not to have learned more about the Prehistory which goes back all the same to nearly 3 million years before our era (a sacred end, therefore). What we learned in class boils down more or less to humans who walked on four legs, then on two legs, who discovered fire, the wheel, and who became sedentary. And presto, we had already moved on to the next chapter.
6. That German and British soldiers took amphets during World War II
Talking about drugs to children, can you imagine the scandal??!!! Nevertheless, it’s the truth: many soldiers (and not only the Nazis) were force-fed amphetamines to get in shape during the fights. The side effects were terrible, based on anxiety attacks, insomnia, aggression and depression. As if war wasn’t hard enough already.
7. That Native American children were indoctrinated by white people in the United States
Beginning in the 1870s, the United States federal government began sending Native American children to boarding schools to indoctrinate them into a white education. The goal was to take away their Amerindian culture so that they could assimilate to the settlers. We, in class, did not dwell too much on the wars in North America, but we would have liked to know a little more about this passage.
8. That there were artistic competitions at the Olympic Games
If we are to believe our history lessons, the Olympics have always been only sports competitions, but that is in fact a bit simplistic. Between 1912 and 1948 there were also competitions in painting, literature, music, sculpture and architecture. The works had to be inspired by sport, but it’s funny to think that you could be a gold medalist without ever having put on a tracksuit in your life.