I realized it the other day as a group of us were discussing current events and politics. I want to live in a time of relative calm and abundance. What's the Chinese curse -- may you live in interesting times? I don't want to live in interesting times. I would like nice, rational understandable and even ever so slightly boring times.
BUT I am incredibly happy that people in the past lived in interesting times with economic volatility, strikes, protests, controversial elections, arguments that played out in the newspaper, uncertainty, and so much more. Because these sort of times make for fascinating study and reading. And there are great anecdotes, statistics, photographs, etc. to use in presenting these stories.
But as a historian what I can't lose sight of is that these were real people who lived through these events -- while I may look at it from the distance of time and the objectivity of research, there are also times when I have to think of it from the perspective of the human context. What was it like to have your farm foreclosed on? To get a telegram informing you a son/brother/husband had died? What was it like to be in the midst of one of the political tempests that regularly were written up in the newspapers of old? To have been standing between the police and the mine as temporary workers were escorted to work in the coal mine? To have been a worker protesting unemployment?
Did those people wish, as I do, that they didn't live in interesting times? Probably. And for their sake I wish they had had more quiet lives. For my sake, though, I'm glad they didn't.