September 7, 2000
Little people's history
Regarding Mr. Khodadad Rezakhani's view of how Iranian history should
be studied in the universities ["Not
First off, I certainly hope that "every midwife and plumber"
*DOES* come up to you and give you the reasons why an historical event
took place. History -emphatically- *IS NOT AND SHOULD NOT BE* the bastion
of elite historians and researchers who get bogged down in the minutiae
of a war that took place 25,00 years ago.
History is lived everyday by all of us, we each have our own version
of it, and frankly no amount of "historical documentation" makes
the lived experience of the "midwife or plumber" down the street
any less valid than the recorded version the scholars proffer.
Secondly, the kind of history you are advocating, with all due respect,
is a history we need no more of. I am -as are many others- tired of the
history of kings and wars, tired of the details what domains they ruled,
and what wars they fought, and what rights they granted in all their munificence
If there is any depth to be gained at all in the study of history, it
should be gained through the study of those "little people" that
have been deemed unworthy of a place in the collective narratives of our
I don't want to know about such and such Shah that won or lost a war
against another empire; such things are abstractions. I want to know about
the foot soldier that was taken -often by force- from his farm to die in
the war he never wanted. I want to know how the blacksmith's wife made
bread; how they bartered or traded or bought or sold products.
I want to know how they reared their children, how they dug the qanats,
how they bred vast and green gardens out of the dry desert. I want to
know why and how they fought for their rights, and how they bore pressure
on kings and courts to guarantee some measure of protection from their
To be totally honest with you, to me, it doesn't matter that Anushirvan
was the king of Iran and Aniran. He didn't rule an empty land. Where
are the people who actually made the history that is now associated with
him? Who speaks for the midwives and plumbers if not themselves?