Memorizing 1000 historic dates - how to do it?

(Dead Man) #1


a couple of years ago I bought a litte book with the name “The 1000 most important dates in world history”. Since then I always wanted to memorize every date, that is in the book, starting from 5000 B.C. till 2006.

What is the best way to do that?



(Nicholas Mihaila) #2

A 4-digit system would be ideal, but that’s usually unrealistic. I would say definitely use a 3-digit (phonetic) system though. If I were doing this myself with a 3-digit system, I would group the dates in 3’s and then divide these groups based on whether they’re BC or AD. In each locus you would be using 4 images to encode 3 dates. You would also need mnemonic cues to give the dates meaning. Things would get a little cluttered because that would leave you with 4 images for the digits and 3 images for the significance of the dates, but I think the compression would make it worth it.

Here’s an example for the 4 images: 1994, 1392, 2018 → 199 - 413 - 922 - 018
→ Using my own images these become tOb (an autobomb, from Super Mario), ram (a ram), ben (Bender, from Futurama), and saf (sapphire geode).

Alternatively, in addition to dividing into BC/AD groups, you could divide the dates by leading digit. This would significantly simply things, and it would make decoding much easier.

Hope that helps.



Hi DeadMan, I use a combination Animal Alphabet Wardrobe method with Major Method pegs and other mnemonic systems to create my own hybrid system.

For instance, BCE images are coloured pink, and CE images are coloured blue.

For example, 776 BCE First Olympiad in Athens

BCE=pink coloured imagery (I also hear La vie en rose ** [Edith Piaf] for aural hooks)

700s = G = Giraffe

76 = cash, cage, gush, gash, whatever your major peg is (or Dominic imagery [Gilbert &Sullivan/Gassing/Geese], Memory Palace can be the Parthenon or someplace in Greece or a Restaurant or an image of Pallas Athena [Minerva]—or a memory lane walk

[You can use a calendar mnemonic too if you want for July; but you want to keep it simple and powerful in my view.]

Here is another one

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue [You can use poems, jingles, acronyms, whatever]

1400s = Newt, Narwhal, Nightingale, Nighthawk?

Colour = Blue [Song Roy Orbison Blue Angel]

Major method peg word 92 [bun, bean, pine, pun, pawn]

I see all kinds of Narwhals or Newts or whatever, swarming over Chris as he is trying to eat a BuN on his ship.

Dominic system NB Napoleon Bonaparte fighting Chris on his ship [fighting over that bun?] Hmm a mixture of Major and Dominic.

CE era can be blue and auditory Roy Orbison singing Blue Angel.

2699 AD = Zebra

26th letter = Zebra

99 = BB [Major]

99 = NN [Dominic]

So it is a mixture of several methods or systems:

Florian Dellé’s Wardrobe Method =

Alphabet Animal Method as century pegs

Calendar method to remember precise dates—if you want to remember time use the 24-hour clock and you can have 0000 [Ozzy Osbourne biting the head of the proverbial chicken or Zeus Sizzling in SauCe]

Colour method to differentiate BCE and CE and Music/Aural for Pink and Blue

Dominic O’Brien’s 00–99 PAO or Major method [Aimé Paris describes it first—I think—in his Cours sur la mnémotechnie, because Grégoire de Feinaigle came later]

I have from 00 = Zeus SeiZing/SiZzling SauCe to 99 = BoBo [gorilla] BoPping with a hammer fist a BaBy or Bee Bopping Baby or whatever.

Fold in trips down memory lane [history memory walks where you place your imagery] and you have an easy 1000 [or way more] History dates and events and you have Method of Loci or Location-based mnemonic system.

It works well for me.

Another method you might consider is SEM cubed;;but mine has more memory hooks (I think) to encode memories.



Nice mnemonic mixtures, jamccarn!


(Dead Man) #5

Great, thanks for the tips.

I have another question: once I have memorized all the dates, what is the best way to review them? Would it make sense to use some sort of SRS, maybe Anki, or is there a better way?


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Thanks Dr. Metivier. I would, of course, be remiss, if I did not mention all of the splendid tips and tricks you share on the scholarly use of magnetic memory methods on your podcast and YouTube series:

Many thanks.

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Hi DeadMan:

I am of two minds on this: SRS are useful if you want to drill fast-paced facts and figures but it skews things out of context in my view. For instance, I successfully trained for a certification by compiling as many questions as I could on the topic and continually drilling using SRS,

For this, however, I prefer the old fashioned memory walk (as opposed to memory palace rooms), owing to the amount of material and to the fact that I want to keep the line or train of thought.and memory palace rooms cause me to stop and transition.

In some of Lynne Kelly’s (@LynneKelly) articles and writings at The Orality Centre - - she chronicles ethnographic memory methods in North and South American indigenous cultures, as well as Oceania, Africa, Europe and Asia.

Many of these cultures involve the physical walk or the physical lukasa type of device.

Maybe if the SRS system were analog with physical flash cards it would be more useful than software SRS,

Lastly I suggest drawing out the timelines or mind mapping them.



I’ve done it a little differently. I’ve got a memory palace with loci (separate rooms) for each century from 1000 BC to 1600 AD. So the first olympiad is in the room for the 700s BC, where I envision Lucky Luke throwing a spear. Lucky Luke is my peg for 76, and the spear represents the olympiad.

I’ve got loci from the stone age until today, but what I lack is a list of important events in world history with suggestions for associations (“mems”). That would’ve been great.

I suggested making such a book once. There are books for sale with associations for learning German, French, Spanish etc., which for the most part just contain suggestions for associations for acquiring vocabulary. I think such a book would be popular in our niche.



@jamccarn With regards to use Anki to memorize such things, what about using the Art of Memory software and screenshoting each loci with their association, and putting them into Anki?

If you go ahead, please do share your journey with us.

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(Lynne Kelly) #11

Thank you for the mention, jamccarn, and tag. This is one of my most used memory palaces.

The thing with history is that it is a continuous palace, not one with discrete locations. As you add more and more to it, you want gaps and locations between dates you already have in place.

My history palace is nearly 2 km long. It starts at 4,500 million years ago at my front gate, because I wanted prehistory in there as well. I then planned out the corners of the block, scaling accordingly. That took a bit of thinking because I wanted every year from 1900 on, but clearly not every year way back before the dinosaurs! So the key locations (home and corners of the block) are 4,500 mya, 145 mya, 100,000 ya, 40,000 ya, 10,000 ya (becomes 8,000 BCE) and 1000 BCE gets me back home.

Then I go on another longer block with corners 0 BCE/CE, 500 CE, 1000 CE, 1800 CE and back home gets me to 1900 CE. I then do every year around the house and garden.

The sides of the history block are now broken down into 25 year units, which happened as I used it. Most events are just in the location, so I can get the approximate date (usually within 10 years) just by jumping to that location. If I want specific dates, such as the birth and death of major characters, then I use the Dominic System and PAO. I don’t do the first two digits because they are obvious from the location in the history palace. I use the character as the Person, 2 digits of the birth date for Action and death date for Object.

I am constantly adding to it. The palace allows me to see patterns - all the things happening at the same time and the people who are contemporary. I can see that the Maya, for example, lasted a long time - three sides of the block, while the Inca and Aztecs just appear half way along one side and then get wiped out by the Spanish just around the next corner. My ability to visualise history is far greater than if I used dates alone.

I hope that makes sense!


(Lynne Kelly) #12

Oh, and the revision bit. I walk the palace. I need the exercise! Both blocks can lead me to the local shops, so it is part of daily life.

I have the spreadsheet on my phone if I need it.



Thanks for the shoutout @jamccarn. As long as people keep showing up to the memory live streams and replays, I’ll keep doing them. It’s been a ton of mnemonic fun so far! :slight_smile:



You’re most welcome Lynne. it’s a very mature system: do you have any suggestions as to how mere ‘pikers’ can start something like that? :wink:



Please do share it with us! (I assume you’ve got even more identifers and dates since last time)



Hi Lynne, I saw your spreadsheet from the last time and I like the simplicity and power of it. I tend to prefer kinesis and other markers in my memory walks. Kind regards as always.

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(Lynne Kelly) #17

I have a lot more but not in shareable condition. It has so many rough bits, including references to my images which could so easily be misinterpreted, and spelling errors. I shall clean it up and put it on my website when my new book comes out. The prehistory section is in the book, very much edited and improved. The history bit serves me fine, but would be too much of a mess for anyone else.

But you have inspired me to put that on the to-do list.

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(Lynne Kelly) #18

I don’t know what a piker is in this context, so if I’ve missed the point - sorry! Dictionary:

NORTH AMERICAN: a gambler who makes only small bets.

AUSTRALIAN/NZ: a person who withdraws from a plan, commitment, etc.

I am used to the Australian use. If you mean taking small bites, that is exactly how I did it.

I set up the blocks with the dates at my home and on the corners. I then divided it up to quarters on each side, so I had a good idea where the dates were. Then I added events, one or two at a time. I didn’t do them in chronological order. You don’t need to. The landscape does that. I did whatever was interesting me at the time. So if I wanted to put in the Great Fire of London, say, then I would go to 1666 and find something to attach it to. (In my imagination, the fire also burnt down the pagola in the yard of the local school!)

One day I whacked in the Chinese dynasties, another time a few scientists I wanted to put in context. Bit by bit it grew.



All contexts seem to work here! .Either Oz/Kiwi or Yankee/Canuck might do. Thanks for your kind response.

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I’d love for us to do this like a forum collaboration.

If you’d write down the fifty last dates, we could try to come up with associations for each of the events. The more universal these associations are, the better.

We could work our way back in the book, and when the thousand dates are done, we could load it into the ArtOfMemory software as a free course.

I could come up with at least ten associations.



Dear @LynneKelly

is there some way to maybe persuade you to share (some of) this list before the release of your book? I am from a tiny village with a lot of areas that simply look the same.

At the beginning of May, I will move to Buenos Aires for 2 months. A vibrant, exotic and colorful city with a lot happening everywhere you look. It would be a great opportunity to remember some important dates of history by walking through these streets and encoding important historical events. It would not matter, that many of the references/visual links included in this list would not make any sense to us, nor are spelling errors something we would roll our eyes over.

Maybe the most current “polished” version? It would be of great help and I am sure that your references are also a pool of inspiration for others, giving ideas to apply these to some of our individual journeys.

I have already pre-ordered your new book and it will wait for me when I return from Argentina, I cannot wait to read it.

In the last few days [sorry, I am total beginner], I have consumed your work and I am more than certain that your book “Memory Craft” will be a milestone in the modern history of history of memory techniques (if that makes sense). I don’t think that there has ever been a book that combines the techniques and unique methods of so many different cultures from all over the world, while providing practical explanations that, over the course of years, have been meticulously researched and tested by yourself. The only books getting close to this are probably the ones also written by you.

As you mentioned in your TedTalk, we can only imagine the vast knowledge these tribes, folks and peoples carried with them over the course of lifetimes and generations.

Thank you so much for your work.

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