Last month (July 8th), I posted a blog titled, “Our River Town’s Historical Significance,” which added a new theme to my Petaluma360 blog site. Some readers might ask, “How do we define historical significance?” One web site “Facing the Past-Shaping the Future” addresses that concern:
“Historical significance is the process used to evaluate what was significant about selected events, people, and developments in the past. Historians use different sets of criteria to help them make judgments about significance. Significance has been called the forgotten concept in history, no doubt because it can be challenging for both teacher and students.”
Another explanation of how to establish historical significance is: “The past is everything that has ever happened anywhere. The past is recorded as history, but there is too much history to remember it all. So how do we make choices about what is worth remembering? Significant events include those that resulted in great change over long periods of time for large numbers of people. In this sense, an event like World Waar II would pass the test for historical significance. But what could be significant about the life of a worker or a slave? What about my own ancestors, who are clearly significant to me but not necessarily significant to others? Significance depends upon one’s perspective and purpose. A historical person or event can acquire significance if we, the historians, can link it to larger trends and stories that reveal something important to us today. For example, the story of an individual worker in Winnipeg in 1918, which is seemingly insignificant compared to the story of World War II, may become significant if it is recounted in a way that makes it part of a larger history of workers’ struggles, economic development, or post-war adjustment and discontent. In that case, the “significant” life reveals something important to us, and thus becomes significant. Both ‘It is significant because it is in the history book’ and ‘It is significant because I am interested in it’ are inadequate explanations of historical significance.”
What do you – our readers – think are some of the most significant events and people of “Our River Town’s” past? Please e-mail your suggestions directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or post them in the comment section for this blog site. Many thanks and stay tuned.