Writing has been a part of history since its inception. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Rosetta Stone or a modern software script, it’s a major part. Here are a few examples.
The Guttenberg Bible: While writing had been around for thousands of years, this Bible changed how Christians worshiped. Until the printing press, Bibles were copied by hand, usually in monasteries. They were not in any modern tongue. Only priests had them. Not even a king could have access.
This gave a lot of power over those who couldn’t read at all or couldn’t read it for themselves. In fact, this power made owning a Bible illegal in some countries. That didn’t stop Christians from getting them and reading them.
When common people had access to the Bible, they understood that some of what they had been taught wasn’t true. People learned that God doesn’t hate mankind. They learned that Christ died for their sins. They learned that they couldn’t buy a dispensation and then commit a sin with a clear conscience. It changed everything.
The Rosetta Stone: Now we know the history behind and the meaning of this set of hieroglyphs, but at one time we didn’t. When it was finally figured out, it led to the discovery of a great deal more ancient Egyptian history. While this particular stone doesn’t say much of historical value, the translation of the hieroglyphs changed history.
The Boxer Rebellion: This rebellion would probably have occurred eventually, as there was some unrest already in China. However, a group of drunk reporters, on a slow news day, made up a story about rebellion in China. It snowballed.
I doubt the reporters had any idea of what they were setting off. They didn’t know much about China, except that they were an empire, they didn’t particularly want to modernize and they had a Great Wall. The latter was the subject of the “report” that they wrote and had published.
The report stated that the Chinese government was going to have the wall razed as a show of welcoming international trade. Though this was untrue, it thoroughly ticked off the Chinese peasants, and the Boxer Rebellion was born.
Ramona: This is another work of fiction, aimed at social justice. The author, Helen Hunt Jackson, had written a good deal about the exploitation of the Native Americans in California. No one paid attention. In fact, the books didn’t sell. Someone suggested she right a romantic novel in order to bring light to the public. She did.
The story is centered around a fictional young woman who had a Mexican Senora as her guardian. The guardian is not a pleasant woman, either to her staff or to her ward. When the young woman falls in love with a Chumash Indian, things get bad.
Jackson set the story on Rancho Camulos. The family living there and especially Senora Del Valle were just about as far opposite the characters in Ramona as possible. The public didn’t know, didn’t care and wouldn’t have believed it if they’d been told.
There is a train station opposite the ranch. People would come to the ranch, demanding food, lodging and then taking items from the ranch as souvenirs. The family had to close the ranch off to the public in order to get their privacy back.
Ramona changed history, but not so much on a national scale. It also didn’t help the various tribes of Native Americans. It changed the lives and history of Rancho Camulos.
What writers say and how they say it causes change. Those changes will occur whether what’s written is true or false. None of us know whose life we will touch and what will be set off when we sit down and start writing. I hope what I write sets off positive change.