When I was younger, my father would ask friends and acquaintances to name their five favorite historical figures. He didn’t require an answer straight away. You could go home and think about it and get back to him. He said you could tell a lot about a person by the answers they gave. Some people would put so much time and effort into their answer with lengthy justifications. Tedious care would be taken to select the perfect five. Others? Not so much.
I’ve been mulling over a way to incorporate this icebreaker into my blog. Then it hit me. I’ll ask other writers to play along. That’s where you come in! If you’d like to participate it’s simple. First you select the five historical figures you want to include. The criteria for selection is completely up to you.
My father chose people who were larger than life, people who impressed upon him when he was younger what the meaning of greatness was, people who are known by one name! Beethoven, Napoleon, Einstein. My wife chose people she’d like to talk to or have a drink with, people with something to tell or something to hide. Lee Harvery Oswald, Anastasia Romanov, Salvador Dali.
Once you’ve chosen your Fab Five you need to do the writeup. It should be six paragraphs or so. In the first paragraph tell us who you are, what interest you have in history, any work that you do that you’d like mentioned and/or linked to (your blog, Twitter handle, whatever…) and, most importantly, what you’re criteria for selection is. Then you’ll give a paragraph on each of the five, explaining why you chose them or what significance they have. The paragraphs can be as short or long as you like them. You don’t need to give a bio of the person unless you feel it’s needed.
You e-mail it all to me and I’ll do the rest. Include any image that you want to use for the person if you think it’ll be hard for me to scrounge one up. Also include any links to any work of yours you may want mentioned as well as any contact info or social media. You can include a picture of yourself if you like.
I’m hoping this fosters discussion as well as serving as a platform to cross-promote our work or hobbies. Plus, you’re writing my blog for me!
I’ll post one a week until the well runs dry.
Now for my Fab Five
Hi, my name is Aaron. I have a history blog called Yesterday Unhinged. I’ve always loved history from an early age. My father would tell me stories about the Peloponnesian War, Napoleon, Picasso…you name it. It was the only subject that I would consistently receive passable grades in. I had a tendency to read my history book straight through like a novel, regardless of the lesson plan. I’ve been working a monotonous job lately and sought refuge in podcasts. I’ve wanted to do one myself, but with the impending birth of my first child (who’s already here), I decided a blog would be a bit more manageable. My criteria for selection was difficult to identify. I decided to pick a single person from the five areas of culture / human experience that have had the biggest impact on my life. I think the person chosen might not be my favorite, but would be the most interesting. I’ve listed them in chronological order.
I felt I needed to select someone from what history stood for when I was a kid…before all the PC, feelgood history took over (I’m being mildly sarcastic). I needed someone who symbolized warfare, conquest and destruction. Is there anyone better than the leader of the Mongols, the man who laid the groundwork for the largest land empire in history? I had to do a biography on a historical figure when I was around 13 and haphazardly chose the great khan. I was instantly mesmerized. Then, in recent years, to hear Dan Carlin’s treatment of the subject on his Hardcore History podcast only cemented his status in my mind. The scourge of all things civilized and one of the greatest military tacticians in history.
I needed someone to fill the slot for critical thinking in my Fab Five, and Rousseau fit the bill for me. He had a stronger influence over me in my early 20’s than he does now. Nevertheless, I’ve always been fascinated by the man. He wrote operas and was a musical theorist. His Social Contract begins with,
“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”
The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau is the world’s first true autobiography and was scandalous for its time. He also has numerous works and quotes which speak to my inner primitivist. A true Renaissance man.
I’ve chosen Orwell because he perfectly bridges two of my main interests, writing and politics. He fought for what he believed in, having been wounded during the Spanish Civil War fighting fascism. Some feel his untimely early death was attributable to complications from his wounds suffered in Spain. His Homage to Catalonia was one of a long list of influences that saw me move to Barcelona for five years. I’m a huge fan of dystopian fiction and Orwell’s 1984 is by far the most well-known, though it isn’t my favorite. The book even gave birth to a new adjective based on the man’s name: Orwellian.
Music has had a massive influence on my life. Some of my earliest memories are of listening to records with my mom. In my teenage years, hip hop became a way of life. I’ve listened to and loved all manner of music. I’ve rapped, played bass, organized music festivals and gigs in basements and my life wouldn’t be the same without it. It was hard to chose a single musician. Having been a massive hip hop head, but feeling that no rapper, dead or alive, fit my criteria for inclusion, I’ve decided to go with James Brown. I listen to him at least once a week. His samples litter rap music from my childhood. And when I think of entertainment as a whole, there’s no better entertainer than “the Hardest Working Man in Show Businees.” We drank all day the day he died.
Again, this is a choice to symbolize an entire grouping. I’ve been an avid sports fan since I was a little kid. I would watch anything sports related and could watch for hours on end. I played baseball and basketball. Sports I follow now include football (American), basketball, football (Euro), baseball, football (Australian) and MMA. I’ve chosen a boxer, though. My family has a boxing background. We’d watch the fights all the time and my great uncle was the heavyweight champ of California in his day. I couldn’t pass up Ali, one of the most transcendental athletes of our times. He’s still alive, but seeing as he’s not adding to his legacy, I could see past it. He’s another one who stood up for what he believed in, refusing to go to Vietnam. The image of him standing over Sony Liston with his arm crossed is one of the most iconic photos ever. He was the original GOAT, Greatest of All Time.