I am joined today by Elizabeth from Smart History Blogging. Elizabeth teaches history bloggers smart ways to save time, grow traffic, make money and write about what they love.
Thank you for agreeing to be featured in the Q and A #FriendsFriday segment of my blog. First can you tell me a bit about who you are and what your two blogs are about?
Hi, thanks for letting me take part in your Q&A segment. I’m Elizabeth, originally from the Suffolk coast now living in Yorkshire, England. After years in press and communications I quit my day job at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, London to work full-time on Britpolitics.co.uk and now Smart History Blogging. (with a wedding, lots of travel to historic places and a baby thrown in too!)
I started blogging in 2013 within BritReview. I explored British history and politics as well as study, revision and motivation tips for students. But, BritReview wasn’t, and still isn’t, just about me., It was a blogging platform for anyone, regardless of experience, to share their thoughts and get published.
Then a year ago, I got into Instagram, and this whole amazing history loving community came into my life. Most history bloggers seemed to be juggling their blogs with jobs, studies and well…busy lives, they didn’t have hours to look up hashtag techniques or SEO keyword research. They wanted to write and grow their blog, not do ‘blog-min’. So, using everything I’ve learnt in seven years, my blog on Smart History Blogging is there to fill the gap and give advice, tips and strategies all with a little history twist!
Your Smart History Blogging I have certainly found very useful.
On your blogs you say you were inspired by a visit to Orford Castle as a child. What was it that interested you?
Well, I was just getting into Kings and Queens so it was very exciting that Orford Castle, Suffolk was built by King Henry II. And, at 90ft high, looking up it was gigantic and I was incredibly small. To get to the top you walked up some (terrifying to me) tight spiral staircases, designed for a sword-fighting advantage not boisterous nine year olds.
The view from the top was superb (slightly marred by realising i’d shortly have to go back down the scary stairs) I could just imagine the enemy approaching from land or sea. (Later I would learn that the marshland in between was a top secret military facility for developing the atomic bomb).
Plus, there was a dungeon where a rumoured merman was kept and of course latrine holes (the highlight for many of my class mates)
And is that what set you on the path to a love of history?
Partly as I was so young, but I don’t have to look much further to discover where my love of history comes from. Every family holiday I can remember had a built-in historical twist. Visiting my sister at Manchester Uni – oooh let’s pop to Chatsworth. A beach holiday in Northumberland meant several trips to Banburgh and Alnwick Castle and the one time we went abroad I saw Normandy D-Day landing beaches and St Mont Michel (although it’s mostly remembered for me throwing up outside a hyper market) even the donkey rides at Pontins Holiday camp were interrupted for a trip to where the Battle of Hastings took place. But there was no moaning, we all loved it.
I can relate to that one. When I was younger my parents regretting letting me pick somewhere to go as it would always be a castle or an aquarium (I find sharks fascinating too).
Why do you think it is important to learn about history?
History sometimes gets a bad name. It’s dull. It’s irrelevant. It’s “too many dates and stuff” (quote from my niece).
But, for me learning about history gives you an understanding of your place in the world through what came before you whether at a family, local, national or international level.
And, it shows itself in different ways. If my grandfather hadn’t survived in POW camps during WW2 I wouldn’t be here. If medical advances hadn’t been made throughout the ages my premature son may have died. If women hadn’t pushed tirelessly for rights I wouldn’t have the life and opportunities I enjoy today.
Learning about history also shows you the best and worst of human nature. It can make people, especially younger people, understand the mistakes, brutality and injustices but also the sacrifices, creativity and ingenuity and how on many occasions throughout history it has been possible to do the impossible.
Of course. I completely agree. It is important to know how we got to where we are both as a species, society etc.
Wow, what your grandfather must have gone through. With your interest in history did you talk to your grandfather about his experience in WW2?
My grandfather, like so many, didn’t talk about his war-time experiences. After he died, family members traced a copy of the form he completed when liberated. It included where he was captured (his unit stayed behind as we evacuated from Dunkirk), the multiple POW camps as he was marched for miles towards the end of the war (the Germans didn’t want them in the hands of the advancing Soviet army) – it was truly remarkable. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to be living through this digital age. A quick search gives you access to records that would have taken weeks of correspondence or you can view precious historic documents online, at home with a cuppa, that people like my grandfather would likely never have seen. Amazing.
No easy experience for that generation of soldiers. Sometime people find it difficult to relate to the past because it was ‘before our lifetime’ for example. Has having a relative, who lived in your lifetime made the history more real for you, more relatable?
Absolutely! That’s why everyone cries on ‘Who do think you are’ because they can relate. It’s personal when they discover a family member’s heroism or tragedy. But, as a history lover I also see it as my job to make the history being made right now relatable to anyone looking back in the future. For example, I kept the flag I waved at The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, an Iraqi bank note given to me by someone who served in the Iraq War, a bottle of whiskey signed by Margaret Thatcher and the letter from the British Prime Minister explaining the lockdown.
Who would you say your faviroute person from history is?
OK, so to prevent historical ‘analysis paralysis’ I’m going to quickly say Queen Elizabeth I. Because, behind what became the glorious portraits of a bejewelled, Virgin Queen with her wild red hair and thick white make-up was someone who had the most horrendous upbringing (her mother was beheaded by her father for goodness sake)
She became Queen aged 25, having only just being let out of the tower by her half-sister. Queen Elizabeth I took on a counsel of men who served and undermined her in equal measures, defended the nation against a Spanish invasion, refused pressure to marry, executed her cousin (a fellow Queen) and faced assassination attempts at every turn. She was clever and brave but there was also a lot to dislike too which makes her so fascinating.
I do agree with you there about Elizabeth. As amazing as she was as a woman, queen and propaganda there was a side to her that was not as nice and more spiteful and jealous which at school does not really get looked at (well when I was at school anyway).
On the same lines, if you could look back in time, as in a window as a witness, where and when would it be?
A lot of the history I adore like the Tudors or the English Civil War is far too gory and brutal. I seriously don’t think I could handle it, so I need to take my answer in a different direction! Before I started Smart History Blogging I worked in press and communications and have profound respect for speech writers and great orators. So, I think it would have to be watching Martin Luther King deliver his “I Have a Dream’ speech especially as a lot was improvised after someone shouted ‘tell them about the dream.’ (And, being in the TV audience of Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special which coincidentally has a song about that MLK speech at the end)
And finally, as you may be aware I love Londons history, with Whitehall having a very special place in my heart. You used to work in the Capital City, what is your faviroute part of its history? If there is one particular place or event?
London has a special place in my heart too! Now, this may sound strange but I think it’s the river. I just imagine being taken to Traitors Gate at the Tower, ornate royal barges full of laughter and music, the wonder of Tower Bridge being built and at various times in history what must have been a truly unique smell! I would urge anyone visiting London to do a dinner river cruise. Historic London, lit up at night, from the river is truly spectacular! (So much so it’s where I had my evening wedding reception)
Thank you for your time and I look forward to see what lies ahead for the future of Smart history Blogging. If you would like to know more about Elizabeth and her blog you can find out more over at Smart History Blogging.
Social media handles are
Twitter | https://www.twitter.com/elizabeth_shb
Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/elizabethhillscott
Pinterest | https://www.pinterest.com/smarthistoryblogging