Mike Anderson’s blog “Ancient History” is framed by a statement and a question: “History can teach us about the present. Are we progressing or regressing?” In this Meet the Blogger interview, we ask him that question, as well as his tips for conveying the importance of ancient history through the web.
How did your interest in ancient history begin?
I have always been interested in history because it teaches us so much about where mankind has been and how the lives of men have made us what we are today. The stories of Greece and Rome are particularly important because of their impact on the development of Western Civilization. I find it compelling that Greece and Rome took us so far only to see that momentum lost when Rome fell and the Dark Ages began.
How do you think history can help us or teach us about today’s history-in-the-making?
One of the things I leaned early on was that people are the same now as they were two thousand years ago. There are nuances that are different in our attitudes but the world is about people looking for happiness. Some get it through power and wealth. Others by having freedom to live their lives the way they choose. When you read history, you see life stories repeated over and over again.
Have we progressed as a species?
We have certainly progressed morally and we seem to care more for each other. Today, man is consciously trying to deny his “animalness” in favor or a logical caring existence, but the pathway to this noble goal remains elusive.
How did you decide that blogging was the way to tell your audience about ancient and world history?
It’s immediate and lends itself to short articles. I can communicate directly to my readers and they can tell me what they think.
For modern history, do you get more information from the economic side or the social side of life?
I try to stay balanced between the two because both are important in any society. Social attitudes affect the way people see themselves in a society. Economics is a measurement system which is use to evaluate government performance.
Recently, one of your posts (Sparta) has been recognized as one of the five best history articles. How did you feel about that, and what was your inspiration?
I was very excited to be recognized. A writer writes first what he feels he has to say, but when others recognize your work you have validation that the message is getting through. Sparta is one of the most interesting cultures of antiquity because their political model was carried to an extreme. In order to protect herself from a larger subservient class of Helots, the Spartans formed a military society which was prepared for war at all times. This unique government form lasted 400 years.
In blogging to your audience, what viewpoint of message are you trying to convey?
I am a trained academic, but I want to write for a wider audience. There are many non-academics who are interested and passionate about ancient history, but not interested in the granularity of the standard academic approach.
For the future of your blog, do you plan to expand to new audiences?
I get requests all the time to add advertising to my site or commercialize it, but I reject these as putting self interest above content. The best way for me to expand my audience is to talk about what I’m doing to organizations like yours AND write good articles. People stay with you when the trust what you say and that makes them excited to hear the next installment.
What is your advice for people that are looking into the field of history as well as blogging?
History is fascinating. I mean the real history, not what we learn in school. Pick a time, whether it be antiquity, the American Revolution, or the Middle Ages – all are full of great stories. If you like one era, you’ll like them all if you are willing to discover them.
Blogging is an enjoyable vocation because it allows you to publish without the hassle of agents and publishers. Since the internet is an open forum, you have to be responsible for the quality of your writing. As I said before, your readers will judge you by what you write.