Discovering History Through Spotify
Politics and Activism

Discovering History Through Spotify

Connecting to ages past through spicy playlists


As a passionate history major (and nerd), when I study history, I seek to gain a sense of the historical experience: what kinds of lives, times, and places were experienced by people living in the past? The past is long gone, Paul Cohen argues in his History in Three Keys that it can never be completely or even theoretically reconstructed. Therefore, we can only approach a certain degree of understanding of how people experienced history in their own lives.

In taking history classes at William & Mary, I’ve come to learn that history, at its core, is about humans and people. It seems obvious, but I find that we more often than not do not think of historical actors as people. They are often thought of as characters in a novel, or as statistics, or even just as part of the backgrounds of “great men.” Sure, people endlessly discuss the exploits of larger-than-life figures ranging from Washington to Churchill, but what about the common Americans or Britons of their times, living their own lives and experiencing history on their own terms? History must focus on the small-scale as well as the large-scale.

My solution: Spotify playlists! What better way to connect to and immerse into history than through music? Music has been a crucial aspect of human culture for as long as we can remember and continues to be an essential part of our lives today. Take for example, the oldest piece of music we have been able to recreate: the Hurrian Hymn, a religious melody written in the Middle East over 3,500 years ago circa 1400 BC. Coincidentally, it can be found on Spotify, along with tons of other songs that can be connected to the past.

I was introduced to the concept in my Modern US South class this semester, in which my professor assembled a unique playlist, chock-full of songs chosen to represent the American South at different points in its history. The Civil Rights Era song “We Shall Overcome” accompanies “Love Shack” by the B-52s, alongside many other songs that highlight various times and aspects of the US South. My professor puts on a song or two before class, setting a sense of atmosphere for the lesson’s theme. I thought this was a fantastic idea. I began assembling my own playlists, listening to them before class and while doing homework. It’s a good way for me to expand on the music I already listen to and build up on my passion for history.

I currently have three Spotify playlists assembled for my listening pleasure, one for Modern Chinese History, another for the History of the Modern US South, and the last on the American Civil War (this one was commissioned for a friend!). Nothing quite gets me in the mindset for learning about the Chinese Civil War than “Without the Communist Party, There is No New China” or about Southern religion than hymns sung in separate white and black churches. Listening to music allows me to connect to my studies on a deeper level and develop my historical passion. I strongly recommend that a spicy Spotify playlist be made for any History class you may have the pleasure of taking. So, if I happen to pass you by without noticing you with my earphones in, I sincerely do not mean anything bad by it.

The world around me might just be being tuned out by the chants of a Southern Baptist spiritual.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

Everyone remembers the first time they went to one of the Disney parks. Spinning in teacups and having Goofy wrap his arms around my 8-year-old self were some of my fondest childhood memories, and I'm surely not alone in that.

Keep Reading... Show less

These Superfood Beauty Products Show Kale And Matcha Work For SO Much More Than We Thought

Just another summer's day with a cold glass of kombucha on my face.

I've been vegan for about six years now, so a love for fresh vegetables and superfoods has now become a core part of my being. Don't get me wrong. I love my indulgent, creamy pastas and truffle fries more than anyone. But I keep most of my focus on eating clean and healthy so I can indulge guilt-free.

But I'd say about a large part of my diet has always, unknowingly, included superfoods. Being Indian, lentils, beetroot, garlic, ginger, and whole grains have been core essentials on the family dinner table since I could digest solid foods.

Keep Reading... Show less

Now that college is around the corner for most if not all young adults, students once shook by a pandemic now have to shift their focus on achieving their career goals. As if we thought we had it together already! As an NYC girl, I have always seen myself as a hustler, hungry to advance my career in journalism by having one skill: working hard.

Keep Reading... Show less

5 BBQ Essentials Every Vegan Should Bring To Avoid Summer Cookout FOMO

You'll have your whole family drooling when you bring these goodies over too.

All vegetarians and vegans can relate when I say this: summer barbecues aren't fun when there's nothing you can eat.

Keep Reading... Show less

Kourtney Kardashian has decided to leave "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" after nearly 14 years and although we saw this coming, it breaks our heart that she won't be there to make us laugh with her infamous attitude and hilarious one-liners.

Kourtney is leaving the show because it was taking up too much of her life and it was a "toxic environment" for her.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

We Asked You How You Felt About Resuming 'Normal' Activities, And Some Of Your Answers Shocked Us

The New York Times asked 511 epidemiologists when they'd feel comfortable doing "normal" activities again, considering COVID-19. We asked our peers the same thing, for science.

Last month, the New York Times surveyed about 500 epidemiologists asking about their comfort level with certain activities once deemed normal — socializing with friends, going to the doctor, bringing in the mail. That's all well and good for the experts, but they are a very niche group, not the majority of the population. What do "normal" people feel safe doing? In certain states, we've seen how comfortable everyone is with everything (looking at you, Florida), but we wanted to know where Odyssey's readers fell on the comfort scale. Are they sticking with the epidemiologists who won't be attending a wedding for another year, or are they storming the sunny beaches as soon as possible?

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments