What Trauma Have You Inherited?
It's an INTEGRATED-A-THON this week as we integrate science, history, industralisation and YOU.
Hello, hello and hello 👋
In April, I worked on an audit of A-level History for one of the exam boards. In the feedback meeting, the team told me that their biggest struggle when creating the specification and associated content is making it relevant. Regardless of the topic, getting students to buy in is their biggest challenge.
*Step forward, Kaye Jones*
If you ever feel like the past isn’t relevant to your life or like your ancestors are disconnected from who you are, then this newsletter is for you. I hope that by the end of it, you’ll have changed your mind entirely.
Today, I want to talk to you about something called epigenetic inheritance. This is the scientific idea that environmental influences, like diet and stress, can affect the genes of your children.
I first came across epigenetics in relation to the Holocaust. In 2015, a research team from New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital conducted a genetic study of 32 male and female Holocaust survivors and their children. They then compared the results with Jewish families who were living outside of Europe during World War Two.
And guess what they found …
The children of Holocaust survivors were far more likely to develop a stress disorder than the other group.
The lead researcher concluded that: “The gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents.”
Before I go on, let me just point out that epigenetics does have its sceptics. This study was criticised for having such a small sample size, for example. If you want to read more about that, go here.
But I’m going all-in with it. It just makes sense to me. It’s a bit like knowing who is calling before you look at your phone screen. You just know, and that’s good enough.
What the Holocaust study shows is the implications of inherited trauma on one generation but there is another study that goes much further back and relates specifically to our BFF, industrialisation.
In 2018, a team of interdisciplinary researchers that included historians and economic geographers found a connection between industrialisation and modern personality traits. Specifically, they showed that:
Industrialisation has left “psychological scars” on certain groups of British people.
People born in industrial areas (areas where coal mining flourished, for example) are more likely to display high levels of neuroticism and lower levels of life satisfaction than people who live in non-industrial areas, like Dorset.
People born in industrial areas STILL have a lower life expectancy.
These levels still show a marked difference even when you take into consideration other factors, like education, climate, wealth and population density.
These regional personality traits have outlived the industries that caused them.
As I’m typing this, I’m hyper-aware of the fact that my house was built in 1870 by a coal pit manager. There are pits under the foundation.
There is a bigger point here, isn’t there?
It doesn’t really matter if you don’t care about the past or if you believe that it’s not relevant to you and your life. It really doesn’t.
Because YOU ARE THE PAST.
It is in your house, in your personality, in your genes.
It is you.
Until next time,
P.S. For an extra history fix:
🖤 Did you see Lucy Worsley Investigates the Witch Hunts? Brilliant but you might need a tissue 😭
🖤 On LinkedIn, I posted about borrowed English words for Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller History Month.
🖤 Get a refresh of our journey into integrating the Industrial Revolution.