Thursday, 15 December 2011

The history of where you live

Every place has a history, since time passes relentlessly and leaves in its wake an infinity of stories many of which are only known locally and do not bother the world at large. Naturally there are places where a lot happens, and they become part of the world historical heritage. Many history books catalogue these places and people everywhere study these and research events to remember for future generations. Big cities like London, Paris or Delhi have a lot of well document history and a lot of it makes fascinating reading. Other places even if they are smaller become famous through some event that thrusts their history to become of worldwide interest. Events such as a natural disaster, a president getting killed or a world war being sparked usually makes a place unforgettable.

I have lived and traveled through  many places whose history is generally considered interesting. Delhi, for example, where I grew up, has seen centuries of occupiers, invading armies and massacres on a regular basis. Another place I have known is London which also has had a long and colourful past which includes people like Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes and all the Kings and Queens and miserable stories like the plague, the fire and all the killings in the Tower.

However there are an infinite number of places which remain out of the limelight but create a history, which often remains unwritten and this gets either forgotten or passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. How many among my friends would have known anything about Kumasi or Maracaibo, places where I lived for significant periods. I have not seen too many books about the history of these but they had their periods worth documenting. Kumasi was (and is) the capital of the Ashantis who were a force to be reckoned with and rich because of the gold that was to be found in the region. And Maracaibo, well maybe the less said about this one the better.A bit like the wild west which had little to be proud of until oil was discovered in the region.

The place where I have now come to live in Spain (Laredo) has a rich history since it was established by Romans when this part of the world was part of the Roman Empire. However few people outside of this region would have heard of any of it or much less bothered to read about it anywhere. I knew that some books had been written about it but had not yet fully familiarized myself with many periods of the story of this place.

So when an organisation which brings together the 'friends of the heritage' of the town invited me to attend a launch of a new book about an aspect of the history that I did not know about, I decided to accept, and it turned out to be fascinating and I was not disappointed.The book appeared to document the work and times of a series of 'governors' appointed by the King, who were known as 'corregidores' or correctors. They existed in pre-democracy times between the 16th and the early nineteenth century, and their function was to administer justice and represent the King in the region, often with a ceremonial 'baston' with which he was allowed to beat people who misbehaved.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this town of a small population was the capital of the region until it was considered more suitable to move the capital to Santander at the beginning of the Nineteenth century.

Now this book may seem to be not too exciting a project, but if we see it through the eyes of the local population, it could be very interesting. And here is the thing I wanted to get down to..that the history of a place is always interesting for the people of that place. Like people, every place has a story and we only need to be in that place to make it worth discovering that story.
It is the history of our world.

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