Why Study History? Why Play Historical Simulation Games?
Pictured: Epic 40K game by Games Workshop, photo courtesy of Bruce McBain and Mike Montesa
by Brad Martin
I have often been asked why I am so interested in military history and wargames, or for that matter, history at all. Many people regard playing
boardgames of any kind as childish, and say that the past is "dead" and of no consequence to them. To the first part I quickly point out the popularity of computer games with all age groups and explain that boardgames came first and share the same principles. I also mention that many people are obsessed with gambling, share-market speculation, horseracing, football, etc., and that these are also games.
On history, I tend to become a bit agitated, for this has been my life-long passion. To me the fashionable focus on the "now," the desire
for personal 'esperience' and the craving for immediate self-gratification, are all manifestations of a greedy, materialistic society.
The deprecation of history merely demonstrates the individual's shallowness and ignorance.
In a recent lecture, British historian David Cannadine described history as a discipline that, "makes plain the complexity and contingency of human affairs,
and the range and variety of human experience, which teaches proportion, perspective, reflectiveness, breath of view, tolerance of differing opinions and thus
greater sense of self knowledge." In this way, "...it provides the best antidote to the temporal parochialism which assumes that the only time is now, and the
geographical parochialism which assumes that the only place is here."
Another very well known British historian Jeremy Black, supplies a further argument against ignorance: "Military history is the most obvious field in which it is
dangerous to adopt the perspective of hindsight. War-gamers devote their time to an entirely reasonable pastime, asking whether battles, campaigns and
conflicts could have had different results. War is not always won by the big battalions and the determinist economic account that would explain success in
international relations in terms of the economic strength of particular states...is open to serious question." He goes on to say: "The past, and therefore the
present, can never be understood if the options facing individuals in the past are ignored. It is wrong to assume not only the path of history is preordained and
obvious, but that the past belongs to the victors and that they should also own the present and the future. This is especially true of military history."
We, our societies, and our states have all been fashioned by history, and for us to ignore this is to aquiesce to the agendas set by the controlling elites and
corporates. By understanding history we can help to shape our own destiny.
Brad Martin produces the best Play by Mail historical simulation gaming zine you will find. If you are interested his address is:
Western Front, 15 Turo Close, Western Australia, 6155 Australia. Western Front