Sevaan Franks runs the website "A Blog About History" a great site full of interesting news stories with a historical theme, and, as historytweeter, has a large following on the social networking site Twitter.com. He kindly agreed to answer a few questions for history-for-kids.
Hfk: Can you tell us a bit about yourself please?
SF: I spent my childhood in Singapore, and now reside in Toronto, Canada. I think living in such multicultural places contributed greatly to my love of history.
Hfk: Are you a professional historian or is it just a hobby?
SF: I'm not a historian by profession, but rather by passion. Ever since I was a small boy I've had a great interest in all things historical, particularly palaeontology (the study of dinosaurs), archaeology (the study of past cultures and civilizations) and anthropology (the study of people and cultures in general; archaeology is actually a branch of this). Growing up, I read and learned as much as I could and this continued right into my post-secondary education where I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology.
I've held a variety of interesting jobs since then (currently I'm a graphic designer), working in a range of sectors from film to healthcare, all the while maintaining a voracious interest in the latest goings-on in the worlds of history. I think it's fascinating that amazing new finds are being uncovered every day!
Hfk: ablogabouthistory must take a lot of effort to maintain?
SF: It takes a little bit of effort, but only in terms of editing what content I want to put on my blog. I have been online since 1995 and right from the get-go I was keeping tabs on history-related news. So, I don't really need to search hard for stories to put on my site. I just have to pick and chose from the stories I come across in my daily rounds online. I find my stories from newspapers mostly, and other media sites, and occasionally readers send me stories I may have missed which is always appreciated!
Hfk: Why do you do it?
It was some time last year when I realized that in order to stay caught-up on history news I had to visit a whole bunch of websites which took a lot of time. I couldn't find a good source where someone had collected these stories, a one-stop shop of sorts. After a while, I realized that surely I'm not the only person who would like a site like that, and I decided to start my own!
Hfk: Do you have a favourite ever story from ablogabouthistory?
SF: I find most of the stories I put online fascinating, but two recent ones stand out for me. One is about the remains of a medieval knight found underneath a castle in Scotland. The skeleton had an arrowhead buried in its chest and numerous signs of trauma to its body, including an axe-wound to his skull! What is amazing, is that all these wounds had healed, meaning they were just part and parcel of being a knight participating in tournaments! It really shed light on how rough an existence they must have had in medieval times. The knight finally died due to a sword swing to his face.
The other article I found very interesting is about how Nicolaus Copernicus who is considered to be the father of modern astronomy, had blue eyes. Scientists used DNA evidence to identify his remains, and then did further analysis to determine the colour of his eyes, hair and what kind of skin he had. I think this is remarkable news! Imagine the possibilities this kind of DNA analysis will have for historians. They will be able to paint better pictures of what other famous historical figures looked like, and even find out what ailments they suffered from. DNA-based Archaeology is a growing branch of the study, and it is going to reveal some fascinating things in coming years.
Do you have a favourite story?
Hfk: Yes - you posted a story about how the owners of a ruined castle (not far from my home) had authentically recreated a Tudor Garden. I had heard about it in the local news, but got a lot more detail from the link you provided; about how we know what it looked like, and how Robert Dudley built it specifically to woo Elizabeth I.
Hfk: You are also "historytweeter" on the social network site "Twitter" and have thousands of followers (you are one of the top historian on the site).
SF: Twitter has been excellent for me because instead of trying to entice visitors to come to my website to see what is new, it allows readers to see the headlines and to just click on the stories that interest them. The content is brought to them, instead of me bringing them to the content.
Hfk: Why do you think historytweeter has so many followers and what sort of people are they?
SF: I think I have a lot of followers because of what I said earlier about how there aren't any (or many) good one-stop sources for history news. My followers run the gamut from people with only a marginal interest in a certain type of story (such as tweets about World War 2, or Tudor history, or just dinosaurs), to hobbyists such as you and me with wider interests, and to actual professionals working in the field. I remember once posting a story about an interesting ancient artefact which was found. I couldn't find a photograph of the item and so I had to use a photo of a similar one. One of the archaeologists who originally found the object saw the post on my Twitter account and sent me a photograph of the actual artefact to use!
Hfk: Do many of them interact with you?
SF: I get a lot of questions over Twitter about the stories I post and I respond to each one. I think keeping an open dialogue with my readers has helped a lot too in developing a little community.
Hfk: Thank you for you time Sevaan, and I hope ablogabouthistory and historytweeter continue for many years to come.