Keeping Up With Dr Jones
Welcome to the first of a regular feature to the Post, sponsored by
the Royal h2g2 Historical Society. Here
we meet Members of the Society1 and grill them about their reasons for loving
history, and what their favourite historical moments/people/facts
are. The first to step into the breach per se, not unlike that
well known adventurer Indiana Jones, is
the equally famous2
'Mr Inquisitor' himself - Psycorp603.
So, Psy, why the interest in the past then? Was it something
you always liked from a young age? Did you think Romans were cool, or
the Egyptians had it going on? Or was there the morbid fascination
with war? Just what was it about history that drew you in?
Well, at a very young age I was more interested in the very distant
past - dinosaurs and suchlike, but my interest in human history
stemmed mainly from my family. Like most people my age, I had a
grandparent who'd served in the Second World War, and he'd tell us the
odd story about his time in the navy. After that opened my eyes to the
'concept', I learnt more about local history from my Great
Grandmother, who'd lived through both World Wars and pretty much the
entirety of the 20th Century. With my interest piqued like that, it
was no surprise that I'd move on to study history at GCSE and A-Level,
and once I bombed A-Level law, it was the natural choice for my
With a degree in History under your belt, and a pair of trousers
as well one hopes, what would you say is the one period of human
history, or even event (to help narrow things down for you), that
REALLY excites you?
20th Century Russian history, without a doubt. The Revolution,
Civil War, Lenin's forging of the Soviet State, Stalin's politicking
and seizure of power, World War 2, The Cold War, Khrushchev's
shoe-banging tantrums, Brezhnev's stagnation, Gorby and
Glasnost, 1991 and all that, Boris and right up to Putin. It's
just not comparable to anything else in human history in terms of
scope and scale. I'm a little bit geeky about it too - I got my
girlfriend a Russian Doll from my trip to Moscow. It's a giant Putin
containing (in her words), 'Drunk one, ketchup head, big eyebrows,
baldy, massive moustache and bald one with a beard'.
Oh, just don't make me tell you the Brezhnev-era Russian political
joke I used in my final exam...
I think we'll steer clear of Russian jokes, I might have to tell
the one about Trotsky and the sombrero. Anyways...I can understand
the fascination with Russian history - the Romanoffs (Anastasia),
Rasputin, the White Army, Potempkin, Gagarin, KGB, ah - starting to
sound like a Billy Joel song so I'll move on. I was going to steer
clear of the whole clichéd time-travelling question but I think I'll
ask it anyway - with a twist.
If you could time-travel, but it's a one-way deal, where do you
think you could fit in and stick it out?
Had to stick it out? That's a great question. I do want to cheat
and say the nineties, but that wouldn't make for a very good answer,
would it? It'd have to be during or after the Enlightenment, because I
couldn't handle the religious aspect of society before that. In fact,
Paris or London during the Enlightenment would be a good choice. I'm
centuries ahead of the Enlightenment thinkers when it comes to reason
and secularism, and I'm sure I'd be able to at least explain the
theory behind the steam engine.
Ah, and that leads me on to my next question - if you had the
opportunity to, let's say, 'alter' an historical event - what would it
be and why (inventing the steam engine before anyone else and
getting rich from it not withstanding)?
Oh, the opportunities for clichés here are staggering. Would I have
Hitler's injuries in World War 1 turn out to be fatal? I'm sure nobody
else would ever think of that... I don't think that I'd change a thing
though. I mean, you can never tell what'd happen. Get rid of Nazi
Germany, and who's to say that the USSR doesn't win a later war
against the West? Stalin is thwarted by Trotsky, instead of vice-versa
and what precisely stops him being a murderous dictator? Napoleon wins
Waterloo - would that mean Prussian militarism is nipped in the bud,
or that 1871 would happen in 1817? Sometimes the path less trodden
leads to a dead end.
But if I really, really had to change one thing, it'd be something
trivial, like the result of the 1975 European Cup Final.
How very conscientious of you! I'd foil the invention of
Vegemite myself, but hey ho - little things. So let's move on to
historical figures. There are so many, but who do you feel the most
respect for? And who do you think was perhaps simply in the right
place at the right time and didn't have the foggiest what they were
Well, Gorby didn't know what he was doing. He knew what he thought
he was doing, but unfortunately for him, they're two very different
things. As for the respect thing, I just think it's impossible to look
further than people like Gandhi or Martin Luther King. The way they
handled themselves, the respect and adulation they inspired in people,
and the way they were so determined not to compromise their beliefs.
Maybe the world would be a better place if people took heed of their
teachings and decided to handle themselves in a peaceful, dignified
And on that note, do you think that society has (in general)
learned from the events and experiences of the past? Or do you think
that perhaps it's a constant circle - what goes around comes around?
If history does repeat itself, what do you feel is likely to happen in
the 21st Century that will have people in the 25th Century remarking
To be fair, we very rarely repeat the same specific mistake more
than once. Problem is, we learn the wrong lessons. Like World War 2,
did we learn that mobilising the largest economies in the world to
fight total war is a horrendous thing which is never to be repeated?
No, we learnt that a big war gets everyone on-side at home, and does
wonders for an economy - especially if you're the one selling all the
shells, tanks and warships.
The way the 21st Century has started isn't that different to the
way the 20th ended - and this "War on Terror/Western Democracy vs
Islamic Fundamentalism" is shaping up to be another WW1/2/Cold War
style time of global unease. Maybe people in 1991 were wrong - maybe
1914-1991 wasn't the short 20th Century, maybe 1914-20?? will be the
long 20th Century - and all future generations will learn from that is
that industrialisation and globalisation made it very easy for lots of
people to kill each other.
But I could be wrong...
Phew, cheery aren't we? Let's lighten things up and end on a
high. Imagine you're Sam Beckett and your next 'Quantum Leap' is into
somebody from the pages of history. Who would you leap into and
Oh, it'd have to be a Soviet-era bartender, so I could lean over
conspiratorially to a customer and say 'Hey Comrade. have you heard
this one? Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev are on a train...'
Ah, yes. Well, I think perhaps we'll end it there Comrade Psy!
Before SMERSH clamp down on your comic stylings! Thanks very much for
your time, hopefully you've enjoyed this little interview...
It's been great. Thanks Matt!
In the next issue of the Post, we look forward to putting Elentari in the hot seat!