Why study history?



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A far from wise person once said to me that there is no point in studying history. His argument was that the past had no relevance and should stay there – in the past. I read and learn about history because it fascinates me. There is a huge amount to learn, endless information, and no end to the supply of stories. When I am watching films I am always more interested in the plot if the film is based on a true story. Who isn’t? So reading history books is equivalent to this.  Imagine the reaction of fans if it was suddenly revealed that Harry Potter was a true story and that there was an actual Hogwarts somewhere? OK, I know I am pushing things a bit here, but you know what I mean.

But as well as enjoyment there is a lot we can learn from history. In the same way that children learn past experience, so do we as humans and as a society. From history we can learn that if a nation or group of people are mistreated they will eventually rebel, that wars are not the answer to solving disputes and that they are more likely to results in large numbers of death than peace. We learn dictators can be very hard to overthrow, and that changes in society such as the vote for women often take a long time to materialise and can be very hard to achieve.

But do we always learn from history? Do we as humans learn from our own mistakes? Sometimes yes, sometimes not. Wars are still happening, minority groups throughout the world are still powerless and we are still allowing bullies the power they don’t deserve.

Should we stop reading history? Certainly not. Like any parent teaching a child how to behave we should not give up because we are not always listened to. Then of course there is the pleasure we get from reading and learning and learning about the people, the places, events, traditions, everyday life……

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