Time and Date Stamping: Getting to Know History

One of the most difficult things to memorise is dates, especially if they involve something that is not within our cognitive reference points of our own lives. Because you do not feel attached or emotionally drawn to historical dates despite some significance for the world, it is difficult for your brain to give these a priority placement in your knowledge library. Instead, these usually get stuffed back in those dusty recesses of your mind after they are determined to not have ongoing value. However, you still need to know these dates for an exam so there has got to be some memory technique to help you recall them at well despite feeling random and obscure.

Here's what you can do to keep 1861 from morphing into 1851 so you can pass that history test with flying colours. Use a mnemonic memory technique and make sure you turn it into something fun to take the monotony out of time and date stamping your brain. One way to do this is to borrow from the East London Cockneys who developed a slang system that was originally intended as a secret language used among entertainers and the London underworld. Now, it can be used for memorising dates. Cockney slang is a rhyming system that replaces certain words but make it easy to equate back to what was really meant. Here are some examples of the Cockney slang and what it really means:

Now, let's apply that to recalling historical data and dates. All you need to do is to think of a rhyming term that can work with your date. The Cockneys always made their rhymes silly as humour has a wonderful way of stimulating your memory. If it's easier to leave off the century part of the date because your exam only has you focusing on one century but many dates within that century, this can help create an easier system:

Beyond just creating a silly rhyme for each date, the critical element of this memory recall method is actually to create the accompanying silly visual. If you can, create a story to go with the image that maybe works in elements of the event that relates to the date, the silly rhyme and the even sillier image.

If this technique is not something you want to take on, there are other recommended ways to learn and recall dates:

Lastly, remember not to just to get fixated on memorising dates for your history exams. You need to be able to do a lot more than just recall dates:

Beyond dates is the need to know places, so the next chapter covers how you can become an expert at geographic recall.

A primer on learning languages Tips on becoming geo-savvy