Thought I’d collate some excerpts on “The Importance of History” for my 50th (socio-political) blog post :)
Importance of History / Why History Matters
1) Our view of history shapes the way we view the present, and therefore it dictates what answers we offer for existing problems.
2) What is history? [A] simple definition: “History is a story about the past that is significant and true.”
3) History is important because it helps us to understand the present. If we listen to what history has to say, we can come to a sound understanding of the past that will tell us much about the problems we now face.
4) If we refuse to listen to history, we will find ourselves fabricating a past that reinforces our understanding of current problems.
5) History teaches values. If it is true history, it teaches true values; if it is pseudo-history, it teaches false values. The history taught to our children is playing a role in shaping their values and beliefs—a much greater role than we may suspect.
Source: Gutenberg College
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6) The past causes the present, and so the future.
7) Any time we try to know why something happened—[we] have to look for factors that took shape earlier. Only through studying history can we grasp how things change; only through history can we begin to comprehend the factors that cause change; and only through history can we understand what elements of an institution or a society persist despite change.
8) History also provides a terrain for moral contemplation and helps provide identity, including a commitment to national loyalty.
9) Historical study is crucial to the promotion of [the] well-informed citizen. It provides basic factual information about the background of our political institutions and about the values and problems that affect our social well-being.
Source: American Historical Association
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10) Far from being a ‘dead’ subject, history connects things through time.
11) The study of the past is essential for ‘rooting’ people in time. And why should that matter? The answer is that people who feel themselves to be rootless live rootless lives, often causing a lot of damage to themselves and others in the process.
12) Humans do not learn from the past, people sometimes say. An extraordinary remark! People certainly do not learn from the future. Of course humans learn from the past—and that is why it is studied.
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13) Every authoritarian government worth its salt understands the importance of commanding the national historical narrative. It is a concept that was perhaps best encapsulated by George Orwell in his classic dystopian novel 1984:
“Who controls the past controls the future, who controls the present controls the past.”
14) Countless one-party states and banana republics have banned books, banished professors and pumped propaganda into the education system. But few have managed so successfully to stamp their imprint on their nation’s history as Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, and his ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).
15) Many Singaporeans perceive their own history to be little more than the Lee Kuan Yew story, with a bit of Sir Stamford Raffles thrown in for good measure. Given the government’s hegemonic control over the school curriculum, universities and the mass media—and its belief that these institutions must perform a “nation-building” function—this [well-rehearsed official narrative] has become deeply entrenched and gone largely unchallenged.