The way most people are taught their history lessons is linear, one reason so many detest the subject of history. To those unfortunates, history is a straight line of events, sprinkled with personages and epic sagas, occasional disasters, countless wars and tragedies, all presented through the perspective of the instructor, be it national, religious, or moral. For some people the overlap of history, epic events in mankind’s evolution and stumbling struggle for enlightenment, has never really been looked at and its significance understood. For example, at the same time the Ancient Romans were building roads and aqueducts across Europe, they were exploring the ruins of the Ancient Egyptian civilizations, ruins older to them than the Roman ruins are to us today.
America’s arguably most famous seat of higher learning, Harvard University, began teaching its students in the classics – Latin, Greek, Principles of Mathematics, etc. – in 1636. It did not present calculus in its mathematics classes since Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz had not yet formulated the discipline. The young men of Harvard did enjoy healthful exercise through several physical activities including a game which involved the carrying of a ball while members of the opposing team attempted to tackle the ball carrier and take over the ball. The Puritan fathers of Cambridge and New England despised the game, which was called football. That football (more like rugby) was played on Harvard Yard before calculus was presented in its classrooms is an amusing note on history, though a completely overlooked one in the linear view.
Here are some examples of history overlapping itself in ways which cause it to be considered in a whole new light.
1. Sliced bread is younger than some of today’s most celebrated people
Commercially sliced bread emerged in the United States in 1928, a convenience which before then was unknown to housewives and sandwich makers. By the mid-1930s it was ubiquitous and by the end of the Second World War most Americans obtained their daily bread through the purchase of fortified white bread, sliced and packaged, and laced with preservatives to ensure a longer shelf life than that formerly obtained from a neighborhood bakery or from one’s own kitchen. By the 1960s national brands dominated the bread market, though most grocery stores were stocked from locally operated bread factories, many of which also produced cookies, crackers, and other bakery products. For many Americans, mass-produced sliced white bread was the only bread they knew, a modern convenience.
The flabby, tasteless, and well-preserved substance called sandwich bread in stores is actually younger than many famous people, including George Herbert Walker Bush, Betty White, and Olivia de Haviland. Around the same time commercially sliced white bread appeared on store shelves ovens with accurate thermostat control appeared in the marketplace, which made the baking of bread simpler for homemakers. The convenience of opening a prepackaged loaf won out over the need to knead. By the twenty-first century there was a backlash against commercially sliced bread, though it remains a staple of larders and pantry shelves. To some consumers it is simply a product which has been around forever. In fact it is less than one hundred years old. By the way, sliced bread appeared the same year as another famed American, Mickey Mouse.