Why history?

Why study history?  One of my history professors once said he studies history for the same reason some people climb mountains – because it’s there.  Another reason given for studying history, and a popular quote, that those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.  Although this is partly true, I don’t think many people have taken this to heart, especially politicians.  I study history mainly because I’m curious.  I want to know why things are the way they are today.  I believe that if more people knew history, they could make better decisions, especially pertaining to things such as  government, environment, and foreign relations.  Unfortunately, most people do not want to know and do not care.  In a way it’s sad, and in a way I understand – people are busy enough with their everyday lives -there’s enough worries for today.  Why do you study or are interested history?  What uses are there for history?

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5 Responses to Why history?

  1. maggie z says:

    Because it’s there?! No way. (No disrespect to your professor, of course.) 🙂 I’d like to think we get a lot more out of studying history than climbing mountains. Especially the way we do it – it is not a solitary venture, but one best studied when in a group. The more we discuss and the more we share with the public, the more we have a chance of understanding our identity, our story, and how to not relive mistakes.

    • w007njw says:

      As much as I loved this professor, I have to agree. There is so much to be learned that is applicable to what is going on today. Although I have always felt that in some ways studying history is a ‘selfish’ profession, since I don’t feel like I’m really helping anyone as much as satisfying my own curiosity. Perhaps this will change when I actually get a job ‘doing’ history. The good thing about the Public History program is there are actually other people to discuss these things with! Otherwise, I seem to bore people or they think I’m weird and have no life beyond studying history. Even my own family has little interest in the genealogy I dig up, even when it places us right in the middle of famous events or groups in history.

  2. elise says:

    I agree with you Nicki, that if more people took the time to understand what has worked and what has not worked in the past, then perhaps we can solve fundamental problems that face our world today. I do not understand why people today say that unions are not needed now. They agree that unions were needed during the 1930s but for some reason they believe unions are not needed today?! What makes people think that corporations will not follow suit with what coroporate leaders were doing before the 1930s? Many capitalistc corporate leaders seem to be only concerned with profits and their shareholders. As a country, we can learn about the history of unions and what they achieved for people inside and outside the workplace. We can take that knowledge and educate future generations about the benefits of unions. Personally, I have learned that unions are a wonderful way to have a strong consolidated voice where workers can address collectively their grievances. Unions not only help lift all wages but they also address imperative concerns such as safety regulations and health care benefits. Look at what is going on right now with WalMart. This multi-million dollar company is facing a tremendous class-action lawsuit from female employees. These employees are complaining of discrimination in the promotional field. It is not suprise that WalMart does not allow their employees to join a union. Unfortunately, what we have faced in our country since the 1970s are tactics from corporate leader to gain leverage over workers. An example of this is threatening to close factories here in the U.S. and move them overseas. Of course many corporate leaders have already done so. Now they do have every right to do this but they really should not receive tax credits or tax deferments from the government if their companies are overseas.

    • w007njw says:

      Amen! If an employer does something wrong to an employee, it is extremely difficult for one person to do anything about it. I have been there, and it is extremely frustrating. I was told (by someone trying to be helpful) that if I made a big deal about this, I would never be hired again in the area I lived in. If it were not for the unions, places such as coal mines and factories would still be the same death traps they were in the 19th century. There needs to be something with enough leverage to stand up for employee rights.

  3. bstanze says:

    I used to really focus my reading of history on the great men and events of history, but have become more interested in social history in recent years. I think studying history, especially social history, gives us a better understanding of why things are the way they are in our society today. We can see how society has changed and evolved into what we have now. Maybe we can even predict, to a certain extent, where we might be headed?

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