Hello my friends,
So do you remember whenever I made a comment earlier on the site about how we cannot push our own social views on the past? Well wouldn’t you you know it, but as I discussed a topic about Tudor England, someone brought up the cruelty of “Blood Mary.”
The person I was talking with made several comments regarding how cruel and brutal Mary I was to her dissenters. Thus as a result, she should be seen as a convict. Do I agree that what Mary did was absolutely brutal and cruel? Absolutely! She had men, women, and children executed. However, does that mean that as a historian I have a right to judge her? Absolutely Not! My job is to understand why she did the things that she did, and then assess the issues from there.
As I thought about what Mary I did, and I reflected on broader history, I realized something. . . What she did was not anything different than what people in the past did with dissenters. So do we blame Mary, or was she simply a product of generational precedents? Mary did not kill to be cruel and heartless. She killed because she saw these opponents of Catholicism as deluders to the populace of England, and the only way to stop this devilish assault on God was to remove the problem. Reflecting back on it, were the mass killings wrong? Yes! But we have the blessing of a twenty-twenty vision, which has also taught us a different interpretation. Obviously as we look back on this we see the horrors of people being hanged, burned, pressed, etc. but these were the normals of the time, killing people for heresy was not a question, it was the answer.
Is this a rant? Absolutely! However, I just see this as such an important thing to key in on within the realm of historical study. Our job is not to bang the gavel. Our job is to understand and empathize. People are complex, you have to get to know them. Though it is hard, how are we to understand who people are if we do not want to walk in their shoes? Besides, a day may come when people begin to write history about you. Wouldn’t you at least like for them to get to know you a bit first?