Susan Ferber, executive editor of American and world history at Oxford University Press in New York, spends more time “living in the past” than most. In her essay for the March issue of Perspectives on History, she describes how romantic visions of history captured her imagination and compelled her to build a life and career that would allow her to live with one foot in the past.
After Hurricane Sandy battered her Long Island neighborhood, Ferber started questioning those romantic visions. She quickly, almost reflexively, started comparing what she thought she knew about what life was like in the past to her experiences of getting by without modern “necessities.” Ferber’s essay drives home a point that historians know but often forget—deep knowledge of the past makes us experience the present differently.
Her essay also opens a column in Perspectives that we hope will expand. “Thinking Historically” will provide a space for discussion of how historical knowledge can influence nonhistorical activities and experiences. We hope to hear from both historians and those outside the discipline—from anyone who has seen how their knowledge of the past blends into their present lives.