A couple of books I've read recently have brought home to me that I'm not really good at history. Or at least in concurrency in history.
The first one I read was "A Storm of Witchcraft" about the Salem witch trials (1692). I had heard the author on MPR and it sounded interesting. Plus, I knew very little about the subject. Besides the historical facts of the trials themselves, what the book brought home was their place in history. They took place 70 or so years after Plymouth (1620) was founded (even less for Massachusetts Bay-1628). So, the grandparents some of the people involved were amongst those founders. And, it was only 80 years or so before the Revolutionary War, so some of the participants grandchildren were involved in that. They were also only 5 years after the Glorious Revolution in England (1688), and the political turmoil there affected the people. In fact, this was the same year that Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were rechartered into one colony. People like Cotton and Increase Mather, who I just knew as early Puritan leaders, were active and affected by the trials. All that history that I knew about separately was all happening at the same time.
The second book was "Who Murdered Chaucer", which, as the authors state, is more of a "was-it-done" rather than a "whodunnit". Basically, Chaucer disappeared in 1400. No word about him alive after that year. And, no mention of his death. None of his manuscripts survive. No will. Nothing in any chronicles written at that time. But, why is the year 1400 significant? Because, in 1399 Henry IV deposed Richard II. And Chaucer was involved with both. He was technically related to Henry by marriage. He was a spy and courtier and functionary in Richard's court. And, at the time, there were competing ideas about books written in English, especially around religion or criticism of religious figures (especially after Henry took over). So, besides learning about Chaucer himself, you get a whole new perspective on the end of the 14th century. Very different from what Shakespeare wrote, by the way.
Here's a photographic example:
In January 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella kicked the last Moorish king out of the Alhambra (and Spain)
A few months later, still in Granada, they funded Columbus's first trip to the Indies/America.