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Why We Study History
“There are no extraordinary menjust extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.” – Admiral William Bull Frederick Halsey Jr.
William Halsey Jr. was an American Naval Officer who successfully led several rigorous campaigns at the time of World War II. His ideal has found a permanent place in history due to the innate truth that his quote bears. History does not simply get formed on its own; rather it is created – molded by the actions and morals of real individuals who come face to face with true challenges and conquer them. These notable individuals were unsure about the future but nonetheless, they fought with all their strength to hold on to their convictions. However, what is interesting is that every human being on the face of the earth does the same on a daily basis. They seek to justify their existence and deal with various circumstances – some ordinary, others complex – whether they like it or not and in the process create history.
Therefore, William Halsey Jr. understood history not just in terms of the past but by the actions of the common man. Nobody has actually ever lived in the past; they always live in the present. The only difference is that it is their present but in contemporary times, it is relegated to the category of “history”. Thus, these men overcame the odds and managed to leave their mark on history. They were caught up with living in the moment just as every single being in society is but had greater certainty regarding the end results.
However, just as “extraordinary circumstances” force ordinary humans to rise to the occasion and create history in the present, it must be kept in mind that when history is formed, it becomes a part of the contemporary world, affecting various future decisions. History, therefore, provides us with tough choices on a daily basis which have real consequences for the “future”.
The reason why we study history has much to do with the fact that what the people in the past did and thought still play a huge role in influencing the contemporary world. Moreover, only by studying the past, can the people of the present learn something regarding the shared history of humanity. The recording and study of history preserves and celebrates the memory and deeds of great men. History may be used for the vicarious punishment and judgment of the guilty. The past teaches the people of the contemporary age the steps necessary to solve many important issues. For example, the Black Death in England claimed the lives of countless people; however, the proper recording and study of the history of that age enabled the people of later ages to eradicate the plague and deal with the outbreak in a more systematic manner.
The study of history enables the people to uncover general truths or laws regarding the nature of humans as well as their behavior. The conception of history holds much significance in the present times and people who learn from the past by examining the actions of the people can gain from the lessons that come in handy in the future. This was the idea that prompted the noted philosopher, George Santayana, to say, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” .
The study of history still remains relevant in modern times. In fact, the utility of history has been discovered anew since people are learning more about themselves through the study of the past. Moreover, historical study helps in the formation of a specific cultural and personal identity of the individual. Every human being happens to be a social creature, which indicates that they are at least partly the product of all the combined experiences that humanity has had in the past. These experiences have been inherited from their communities, their families, their nation, their cultural heritage and their intellectual and spiritual advances. If history is studied in the modern age, it will give people the opportunity to situate themselves in time and place, and help them understand how they are exactly, what their position in this world is and how they came to be.
A lot has been written about history and the study of this material enables people to expand their outlook and their horizons. They learn to understand and appreciate various sorts of values, motives and attitudes of the people, irrespective of whether they belong to separate racial groups or nationalities or religious orientations. The study of history, therefore, lays bare entire worlds, both present and past, before humanity.
The term “history” covers an expansive range of subjects and the study of history teaches one to evaluate, understand, synthesize and present large amounts of details and information in an organized format . The study of history is also instrumental to the achievement of the truth about a historical personage or event. Hence, history plays a major role in adding to the sum total of human knowledge and vision.
Goodreads. (2014). Admiral William Bull Frederick Halsey Jr. Quotable Quotes. Retrieved March 31, 2014, from Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/583201-there-are-no-extraordinary-men-just-extraordinary-circumstances-that-ordinary-men
Oakeshott, M. (2003, January). On History and Other Essays. Retrieved March 31, 2014, from StudentsFriend: http://www.studentsfriend.com/aids/curraids/whylessn.pdf
Stearns, P. N. (1998). Why Study History. Retrieved March 31, 2014, from Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board: http://www.dpcdsb.org/nr/rdonlyres/a45d0e3d-3943-4e8f-ad9c-062b2c35d556/17268/whystudyhistorypdf.pdf