The Best Era in History to Live

July 5, 2011 — 27 Comments

Recently I watched the movie Midnight in Paris (2011).  I’m not a Woody Allen junkie but this one fascinated me.  The main character Gil, played by Owen Wilson, is an aspiring writer who admires the “Lost Generation” artists from 1920’s Paris.  In the movie, Gil finds himself transported to that era where he meets artist greats like Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Gertrud Stein, Pablo Picasso, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Although a fiction story, it was amusing to get lost in the story of the Gil and it got me thinking.

What era would I have liked to live in?

There is much to consider in the question and answers can be surprisingly personal.  I’ve asked this question many times to friends and you get a lot of different answers.

Women quite often bring up that era’s rights of women first.  An old female friend of mine said that she wouldn’t want to live in any other era than now because women have never had so much opportunity.  I never thought of that before she brought it up. My wife in particular always wishes she were in the Jane Austen Victorian Era with the beautiful dresses, chivalry, and beautiful dialogue (no pressure on me, huh).  My mother is fascinated by the Tudors (yes the show as well) but never would have wanted to wear the suffocating dresses or have to deal with lack of modern medicine.

Most men I’ve quizzed seem to be fascinated by eras that represent the greatest adventure to them.  If you were a baseball fan, perhaps it would be the 1920s and 1930s when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig ruled the diamond.  If you admired the military, they say World War II, The Civil War, or the Napoleonic Wars.  My father has always been intrigued by his grandfather who lived from the 1880’s to 1980’s. His Grandpa Moberg was born during the “horse and buggy” age and lived until seeing a man on the moon.

And now my answer…

The Age of Exploration is a favorite of mine.  But then I remember details about explorers like Magellan who despite technically not making it around the world (killed by Filipino natives), ironically got a GPS system named after him.  The truth is, his story wasn’t much different from other explorers who either died in the middle of their journey fighting natives or from some terrible disease.   I’ve also been fascinated by the Roman Empire  or Ancient Greece and their gallant expansion battles, beautiful architecture, and lessons of government.  Perhaps I read/watched a little too much of Julius Caesar and The Iliad. If I were to pick a favorite, I would pick The American Revolution. I imagine myself fighting for freedom with my distant relative, Vermont Minuteman Lt. Nathaniel Bowman Brown.  It has always seemed to be a time period of great drama; to live on the frontier, fight for freedom, and form of a new way of life.

The truth is, as Midnight in Paris’ Gil points out, someone is going to be asked this question fifty years from now and possibly think that “the 2010’s” is the best era.  We are never quite satisfied in the era we live are we?   We look back to find solace and inspiration from other eras.   I’m sure that ole Uncle Nate Brown looked back to The Renaissance and thought, “Man, that era was so much better than this 1770’s mess.”

What about you?  

What is the best era in history to live? 

27 responses to The Best Era in History to Live

  1. 

    Excellent question. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Medieval period, in particular,The Age of Chivalry. I love the idea of men protecting women, defending their honor, and having to fight face to face. It’s a romantic view of the past, but that is inevitable it seems with such questions. Of course, even an illness as common as a toothache would be torture back then. That’s my brief answer. Enjoyed your thoughts. RO

    • 

      Kyle, you make excellent points. I thought about this question for awhile and ultimately came up with a lot of pros and cons. Each era has negative points and most it surrounded by death or lack of medicine. We really should be more and more thankful for good medicine. As for chivalry and the Medieval period, I think you are dead on there. I think we can learn lessons from each era, especially when it comes to chivalry. I don’t think in 100 years people will say it about this era unfortunately.

  2. 

    Loved the movie. Loved the blog post. Something about the question rubs my Gen X, suspicious, post-modern and I want to say “I like this 1977-2011 era!” I don’t know if I am being authentic, reactionary, or both. But, it is my answer. Great movie. Wish I could box up what Hemingway and Stein said.

    • 

      I agree Matt. We’re never quite satisfied and we love to blame things on our current generation. The fact is, we’re all looking back to find the answers for today sometimes. It’s a fun exercise, nevertheless.

  3. 

    I would say the current era. I know that’s lame, but with the technology available, it has made it possible to connect with people everywhere. I’ve made lasting friendships and brotherhood. Without technology, I would never have met Mr. David M. Schroeder. That makes this an easy question to answer.

  4. 

    There are many periods and particular regions that fascinate me, but I’d have to say that of all worlds, I’d rather live in this one, right now. In some sense and in some measure, we all carry the past in ourselves; we wouldn’t be here or be the way we are without those that went before. I’m good with that and good with just being here.

  5. 

    Great Magellan joke, Dave. Going to have to steal that. I suppose Vasco de Gama just doesn’t have as good of a marketing hook.

    I’d like to have been living in the 1950’s in some ways. The dominant spirits of innovation and optimism must have been amazing. That, and I like Jerry Lee Lewis and tailfins a bit too much.

  6. 

    Being a history major and history geek I’ve been thinking about this question most of the day since you posted it. Right now there are two eras I would want to spend time in.

    The first is the mid-thirties through the war. But it’s not just for the war, it’s the baseball, the music, the books, the inovation, this new age and this clear question of evil against goodness but whould you have the courage to make the stand and take a side or blindly hope that you would not have to intervene. To acknowledge the storm as it approaches the horizon or do you just view it as a small storm passing momentarily by that would just fade away.

    And then you have the personalities, Oppenhimer, Churchill, Ike, George Marshall, Nimitz, Winters, Franklin and Eleanor, Steinbeck, Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Wells. It could be the brightest spot of Amerian intellectualism since the founding fathers. It would be fascinating to spend time there.

    The second period I would like to jump into my time machine and spend time in is the early church in Turkey. I’ve spent so much time this past year and a half since returning to the church examining Paul and the early church. It would be amazing if I could just travel with Paul on the Road to Rome. His conversations and thoughts during these long periods on the road must have been amazing as he is working through these ideas. Creating the practical application of Jesus’ teachings. His communication skills must have been amazing considering the limited resources. Could you imagine what he could do with Twitter?

    So those are my two places I would spend time in, and yes I just pitched a buddy movie Paul and John’s Road to Rome…look out Bob and Bing.

    • 

      Man, I knew you’d have a really thorough road. I would have loved to be walking with Paul on the road. I’d probably feel as though our Revolutionary Relatives felt too, probably fearing for their lives too. The Mid-thirities is a fascinating time because you are in the heart of the depression up to a unified period for all Americans. We need to talk through this one more. Great answer!

  7. 

    I admire the men and women of the Greatest Generation…their courage, fortitude, and strength. Yet I wonder if I had lived during that time if I would have recognized that generation for what it was.

    • 

      I think if you asked that generation how they felt in 1939 it would have been different. But, then again they all seemed to collectively work for the common good when called. Nevertheless, I admire them greatly with you.

  8. 

    I believe the best period in would be 1945-63 or so-my parents’ time. My mother was born in ’29 and father in ’31. As a result, they:
    1) Missed the depression and WW2 as they were a bit too young.
    2) Came of age during a period of great national pride, with great advances in technology, convenience and creature comforts.
    3) Were too old to get caught up in the Vietnam War issues, and the emergence of the hate-America crowd.
    4) Lived in a time when if you were decent, had some class, got your education (or trade skills) and basically put one foot in front of the other, you would likely have ended up with a quality mate and a decent, steady career.
    5) Are too old (my father has passed) to be hugely affected by the turmoil and deconstruction of America that we are all witnessing.

  9. 

    I want to live in the simplest possible time which has the technology I want planes, trains, automobiles, paved roads, electricity, air conditioning, movies and radio, but not TVs nor computers. That puts me in the 1930s. If you wanted entertainment, you had to go out and actually socialize with humans.

  10. 

    I think this question is not really that wise, because it all depends on your perspective about what is life, and that only comes from your previous experiences in this life, besides it all comes down to perception, if you were white mid-class person, the best era to live in would be the 50’s, if you were a minority I can guarantee you it wasn’t, if you were in the renascence it would have been great to be noble but then again if you were not part of the aristocracy probably it would have sucked. I think we should be grateful with the era we are living in because each era has it good parts and obviously the it’s bad

    • 

      Mike, to each his own. I’m just glad this helped you think through it. Each person is shaped uniquely and are made to have a certain inclination toward one thought or another. In addition, our experiences, culture, and history contribute as you point out.

  11. 

    I am wrapping up my third book in a YA series that I write. One of the characters in the novel asks this question to an immortal that is under two thousand years old. This man has lived through a multitude of eras. I have much to think about before I write out his reply. Thanks for the blog post it helped me form some ideas. Perhaps when I am done I will return and let you know what a two thousand year old immortal saint would say was his favorite era. Thanks again for the help!

  12. 
    Fredlouiemendoza April 29, 2013 at 3:41 am

    for me the best century for living is 21st century because on this century opening of technology era in this century time machine will be invent

  13. 

    Without any doubt, the best time to live would be before Islam was dreamt up. We are headed for one almighty clash of fairy tales. All religions are ridiculous and laughable, but Islam is putrid.

  14. 

    I would say in my opinion my favorite era i would enjoy to live in the 12th century

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