Forget the old adage that those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it, South Suburban College instructor Bruce Allardice wants people to know history because of the thrilling aspects within the knowledge. Whether diving into a deep conversation about intricacies of World War II or the richness of baseball, he tirelessly pours out historical facts to his students or anyone else who has a passion for the subject matter.
“Everything we know and experience is in the past even something that happened ten seconds ago,” said Mr. Allardice. “It is difficult to know where you are going without knowing where you have been.”
Mr. Allardice has made a career out of knowing – he’s a past president of both the Northern Illinois Civil War Round Table and of the Civil War Round Table of Chicago. His journey to becoming a published author derived from engaging those organizations and the historians they would bring in from all over the country. Mr. Allardice realized that he often knew as much as the experts and even managed to win many of the history trivia contests at their events and conferences. He has since authored and co-authored several books and numerous articles on the Civil War. He has spoken at Civil War symposiums in more than a dozen states including Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, and Georgia in addition to teaching at SSC since 2005.
“I think every historian in every generation has complained that people don’t know enough about their history,” said Mr. Allardice. “We want people to be interested in history, but we probably speak too much to our peers and need to refocus on making history both understandable and interesting to the general public.”
Mr. Allardice will navigate people to read about “Sherman’s March to the Sea” during the Civil War, is compelled to debate Illinois’ early politics, and is curious to explore myths about George Washington’s Army. He’s happy to explain how baseball earned the moniker of “America’s national pastime,” how baseball spread to Chicago, or how Scotland is “God’s gift to golf.”
Currently, Mr. Allardice is embarking on a large project researching the first occurrence of baseball in every town in Illinois and every state nationwide pre 1871— the official start of professional baseball. (To date, he has pinpointed 5,500 instances.) Chicago White Sox fans will also be interested to know that he has started “extensive research” on the 1919 World Series scandal.
Mr. Allardice knows that everyone won’t love history as much as he does. He also understands why it is increasingly difficult to reach younger generations through history. “We have so many stimuli attracting our attention now that we didn’t have before.”
But that won’t stop Mr. Allardice from trying, just ask him about the history of Halloween and you’re sure to get a 20-minute presentation like the one he gave on a whim at a party last year. “I just have an intense love of history” he says with a smile.