Cycles of history

Found the coolest iPad app: The Civil War Today. It’s a daily newspaper with push notifications and all the fun gadgetry associated with news delivery apps, only each day’s content is from one hundred and fifty years ago, to the day.

The premise is simple: you get to relive the Civil War as it unfolded. Every day, you fire up the application and are presented with a handful of news stories that actually appeared in newspapers exactly 150 years ago — along with photographs, maps, quotes, and a running tally of the casualty count so far. The application will be updated every day for the next four years.

I love studying material that helps lend context to a historical period, even more so if it’s about the daily lives of the people of the time. I can never quite forget that we’re all just brief participants in the long game of humanity, with life spans just short enough to make the same mistakes as previous generations and learn from them ever so slightly too late.

This app serves as a nice reminder not to get too caught up in the gossip and hysteria of 24-hour news cycles, or even just the day to day grind of information flow; no matter what events are unfolding, the truism remains: the more things change, the more things stay the same.

Incidentally the scope of this app also neatly overlaps with my love of epistolary novels retold in digital form, like the real-time blog posting of Dracula.

Some other similar non-fiction projects:

  • @Genny_Spencer – the more or less daily diary of the poster’s great aunt, from 1937 to 1941.
  • @GGPratt – the diary of a 99 year old woman, written in 1974.
  • Orwell Diaries 1938-1942 – “George Orwell’s domestic and political diary entries, posted 70 years to the day after they were written”.
  • @TweetsofOld – tidbits of newspapers from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. Not to the day, but still very interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *