Difficulty in remembering historical events

by Mikael
(Adana, Turkey)

What kinds of methods should I use to remember events in history?

Doug's Reply: To remember history, you usually need to recall two linked things:

1) a date
2) a person, place, or event

The methods used to memorize these differ a little. For the person, place, or event use the regular visualization-association technique. For the date, however, you need to use a special Phonetic Number memory system, as described here:


(Copy and paste into your browser, or click on Memory System > Phonetic Method on the left side of my website)

The Phonetic Number system gives you a way to convert numbers to words that can then be visualized. It requires you to first commit to memory the following number-to-sound conversions:

1 - is the "t" or "d" sound
2 - is the "n" sound
3 - is the "m" sound
4 - is the "r" sound
5 - is the "l" sound
6 - is the "j", "ch", or "sh" sound
7 - is the "k" or hard "g" sound
8 - is the "f" or "v" sound
9 - is the "p" or "b" sound
0 - is the "z" or "s" sound

Notice that these are all consonants. (There are a few tricks you can use to commit these to memory; see the webpage I mentioned above for more info.) You can combine these consonants with any vowels you wish to create memorable words as long as you keep the consonants in order.

For example, suppose you need to remember that the Treaty of Lausanne was ratified in 1923. To remember the year, first convert "1923" using the conversion table above.

1923 = (t or d) + (p or b) + n + m

The first word combination that popped into my head for these letters was the phrase "tap on me" (t,p,n,m).

All I need to do now is associate the phrase "tap on me" with an image for "Lausanne". To me, Lausanne sounds like "low sun".

Therefore, a memorable image I could create for remembering that the Treaty of Lausanne was ratified in 1923 would be: the sun which is low on the horizon ("low sun") is bouncing up and down repeatedly on my head ("tap on me"). Of course I would try to visualize this clearly and with as much detail as possible.

Now consider how well this works. A question on an exam requires that I remember the year the Treaty of Lausanne was ratified. As soon as I see the word "Lausanne", the *sound* of that word reminds me of my memory phrase "low sun".

Immediately, the image of the low sun bouncing on my head, and thus my phrase "tap on me", comes to mind. All I need to do is mentally convert "tap on me" (t-p-n-m) to the numbers 1-9-2-3, 1923. Easy.

This technique becomes almost effortless with practice. The best part is that if you create clear, memorable images, you will always have confidence in your answers. The letter-to-number conversion is exact, so as long as you remember your image and do the conversion correctly your answer will be right.


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