“Why history?”. It is a question that I have repeatedly been asked. At a loss of words, I have often been unable to articulate to the people around me the significance of this subject and what draws me to it. A preponderance of people believe that history is simply an insight into the past, mere stories of people and their lives. Perhaps the imminent disregard for the subject among people today stems from what the subject is commonly associated with; a collection of dates and facts that are seemingly meaningless in our world today. Historians and students of the subject around the world, however, will attest to the fact that history is far more than just this ostensible claim. History encompasses the bygone eras reflective of human advancement, spirit, resilience, successes and failures that have metamorphosed into the world as we know it today. They are the stories of the morals, beliefs and values of cultural groups that have shaped our identities today. While I have been exposed to just a fragment of the expansive knowledge that this subject has to offer, here are some of the reasons why I believe that all students, regardless of the career they wish to pursue, should be exposed to history.
History gives us an insight into the complex facets of society: Human behaviour and people are unpredictable to say the least. We are constantly surprised by the extent of our ingenuity, and reactions to the situations we find ourselves placed in, and while humans will never be a puzzle that is completely discerned, history is a step towards disentangling the seemingly incomprehensible web that is humans. Whether you choose to study about the European Medieval History or the lengthy British Raj in India, reading about history inevitably causes us to delve deeper into the rationale behind human actions and the circumstances that influence them.
History gives insight into our identity: This is undoubtedly one of the primary reasons why history is considered such an important part of our education compulsorily until high school. The subject provides us with critical data and evidence that allows us to make inferences about societies, their stories and their evolution with time. Understanding these stories help us gain an idea of the roots of our traditions, heritage and what makes us who we are; in other words, research into history inexorably allows us to find ourselves among the stories of others.
History can prepare us for the possibilities in the future: Someone once said, “To know the past, is to know the present, and to know the present is to know the future”. While it is never possible to know for sure what lies in the future, history gives an idea of human behaviour in specific circumstances and provides us with precedents to situations we are faced with in the present day, enabling us to put our best foot forward in the future and make well informed decisions. Additionally, given that history addresses a vast audience, there is plenty of knowledge to be taken away from history for anyone who seeks to learn something new from this subject.
Studies into history develop vital skills: Brief studies into history can massively improve some essential skills in students and adults alike. Studying history improves our ability to “make sense of evidence” and our logical thinking that comes from reconstructing events based on limited sources of information from the past. Additionally, it further improves our ability to draw conclusions from conflicting information and sources from the past that we have limited means of verifying. History improves our ability to think critically, while improving our research skills and “general awareness”. These skills enable us to create generalised historical arguments and theories that cater to larger audiences rather than just individualistic biases.
Why history? While the answer to this question has taken me a while to arrive at and articulate in words, I feel it summarises the essence of what draws me to the subject. And while history may not be the subject that you, the reader, wishes to pursue professionally, I believe that occasional study into the subject can do volumes. I do hope that my blog, which is an insight into my exploration of history will allow you to ignite your interest in the subject too.