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:
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
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
1914-1918 World War I
1939-1845 World War II
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.