Sunday, 10 June 2012

I set out to commit 3-5 dates per century to memory in order to later be able to use them as reference points for my understanding of history. This way I will slowly work my way back through the centuries, as far as I feel like it is useful to go. If you missed the original post, have a look here.

Method: I decided against buying any kind of book so I will use the wonders of the internet instead. In practice, this mainly means Wikipedia. I find Wikipedia is often the best place to look up something quickly or get an introduction to a subject and that is really all I am looking for right now.

As far as actually learning things goes, I will use the good old flash cards. Yes, on paper and all. I personally find digital devices far too distracting when I’m trying to concentrate. Cards are much more versatile than programs in the sense that I can actually arrange them in different orders. Also, they don’t have facebook.

A note on the dates chosen: Since I am neither a historian nor actually very good at history, my choice of events is somewhat arbitrary. I tried to pick ones that people at the time would have heard of, that I had heard of before and where I had a rough idea of the kind of effect it had on societies. The result is an odd mixture of wars, technological advances, great people and odd bits and bobs. My list is very euro-centred as I am trying to anchor down the knowledge I already have. I did briefly consider going straight for world history but I think that would actually make matters worse.

So, without much further ado, I whipped out my pen, a trusty stack of cards and my laptop:

18th Century

1715 Louis XIV dies (He ascended the throne in 1643. I learned at this point that Madame de Pompadour was in fact a mistress of Louis XV, not Lois XIV as I always thought.

1764 The “Spinning Jenny” is invented, one of the early machines of the Industrial Revolution

1775 James Watt invents the Watt Steam Engine. It was used to pump water out of British mines.

1776 Declaration of independence by the United States

1789 The French Revolution

19th Century

1833 The Abolition of Slavery in the British Empire.

1844 The first Telegraph line went into operation, marking an early use of electricity

1845-1852 Irish Potato Famine

1854 The Bessemer Machine is invented. It allowed the production of steel on an industrial scale. Around the same time, the commercial drilling for oil went into full swing, paving the way for the internal combustion engine.

1861-1865 American Civil War

1881 The “Scramble for Africa” begins, bringing with it the second wave of Imperialism

20th Century

1914-1918 World War I

1929 The Wall Street Crash ends the “Roaring Twenties”, kicks of the Great Depression and paves the way for Hitler

1939-1845 World War II

1969 The moon landing (in 57, the Russians kicked of the space race by launching Sputnik)

1991 The Soviet Union collapses, effectively ending the Cold War

21th Century

11.9.2001 – Attack on the World Trade Centre (for you Americans, Europeans actually write the day before the month so calling it nine-eleven is quite confusing)

2011 – Arab Spring


I am proud to report that I wrote almost the entire list from memory and for the centuries listed here, I already feel like things are coming together. This is exactly what I was aiming for before. The next step will be to add in some overarching classifications and branch out into different areas but I think before I do that, I will go back a few more centuries.


  1. What a great idea! I think the dates you chose are great for a guide line through history because even though most of them are events rather than developements each represents an important development.
    Oh and just FYI, I just comment in English so other people who are not fluent in German are able to understand, too.

    1. I did consider learning developments but that's just too vague for me. When I think "Victorian Era" or something, I've got a vague idea of pretty dresses, colonies and a push for science and technology but when I think "Scramble for Africa" I have a much clearer image in my mind. Also, developments often don't have real ends and beginnings.

  2. This is kind of really awesome!

  3. Ich finde es toll wiviel Mühe und Energie du in dieses Projekt steckst.
    Solche Vorhaben landen bei mir sehr schnell wieder auf nem Stapel in der Ecke. :(
    Deshalb ist mein Geschichtswissen auch so rudimentär ...

    Weiter so, du bist ein gutes Vorbild!


    1. Mein Blog motiviert mich sehr bei solchen Aktionen. Wenn sich ein paar Leute aktiv beteiligen habe ich das Gefühl es nicht nur für mich sondern auch für andere zu machen und dann ist die Hemmschwelle einfach aufzugeben viel höher. Ich habe auch etwa eine Millionen Projekte die traurig irgendwo verstauben weil sie nicht länger als die erste Begeisterungswelle überlebt haben.


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