Sentences end with full stops, but for some reason we don’t punctuate the beginnings.
Like sentences, historical individuals are suddenly just there. They emerge into our field of vision, they walk on stage, they emerge from some vague fog of the unknowable to become historical. They marry, or inherit, they pick up a gun or write a book.
The thought is provoked by my unease when dealing with participants in criminal court cases. Who are they really? Where did they come from? Too often, the answer feels like ‘no-one’, ‘nowhere’.
Almost as soon as I have got these words down, I regret writing them.
What, I suddenly realise, about birth certificates? In the quest to know who someone ‘is’, I feel a sense of completion when I have seen that textual proof of origin. Mother’s (and sometimes father’s) name, a place, a date, a true name.
The French state…