Forgotten Figures: Introduction

So the poll results are in and you guys voted largely in favour of me writing them all.  However, the most popular series by far was this one I’m doing right now: Forgotten Figures.  31.25% of people voted for it alone, plus the 25% of people that voted for all of the above, which made me really happy because this is an article series I’m really looking forward to.  So now I’ll give you a brief introduction and explain how it’s going to run.

There are many fascinating figures throughout history that have largely been forgotten by the public these days.  Everyone’s heard about Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan and Christopher Columbus.  If you asked a random person on a normal city street and gave them that list, they’d be able to tell you the accomplishments of at least one of those.  (Or so one would hope, especially for the last person on that list.)

But what about the interesting people that mainstream history has forgotten?  What about Galla Placidia, Zenobia, Sneferu, Aurelian, Shapur and so many more?  The accomplishments of these people should not be forgotten, but I’m also going to dive into the history that people would rather forget: the brutal reign of Caracalla, the just weirdness of Elagabalus and so many more ugly little pieces of history.

However, at one point during this hopefully long article series, you’re probably going to say, “Carrie, do you think we’re all stupid?  Of course I know who [x] is.”  That’s right, you probably will know someone I’m doing a feature on at one point or another.  And it’s probably because you’ve studied history a little more than the average person.  If you’re a fan of Roman history and you’re scoffing at me including Aurelian on the list of forgotten figures, that’s fine, but just remember that I’m talking about people forgotten by the general public.  Let’s face it: if you asked random people on a city street to name the two major things Aurelian did during his five-year reign, they’d probably just look at you blankly.  Scholars of Roman history easily could, but the average person?  Not so much because you never hear about him in the mainstream media.

One of my goals is also to bring more famous Eastern historical figures to my largely Western audience.  So if you’ve even made a cursory study of Chinese history, you’re going to scoff at me when I talk about Princess Zhao of Pingyang and Emperor Li Shih-min (T’ai-Tsung).  You’ll have to bear with me on those articles because although they are very well known in their countries of origin, they don’t exactly ring bells to Western ears.  Heck, I only know about them thanks to a humour site called Cracked and some ancient history books I picked up at a garage sale.  And that’s a shame.

My specialty is ancient Roman and Egyptian history, but hopefully if the series goes well I’ll take more time to research and learn about obscure figures from around the world.  I know Greek history would be fascinating and I’m eager to learn more about China’s long history.  Of course I’ll also be taking some more modern figures that have been forgotten, but those will be a little more rare.

I don’t know how I’m going to format things yet, but I’ll probably give you a background look at the times the particular Forgotten Figure lived in, then a (hopefully detailed) biography followed by a summation of their accomplishments.  If this format seems popular, I’ll probably stick to it but just be aware that if it doesn’t seem to be working, I’m going to be changing things around.

So there’s your introduction to my newest series: Forgotten Figures.  Come back next week for my first installment in the series, Forgotten Figures: Aurelian.


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