Knowing our own history, or the history of our culture, is important because it helps us to know who we are while molding the future. Being familiar with past events gives us the ability not only to learn from past mistakes but also from the successes.
History is a general term, which includes many specialized studies such as military history, music history and film history.
According to Edmund Burke, “People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.”
In order to comprehend why things are as they are in the present, whether technology, political systems or music, we must understand how they began and evolved into what they are today.
For example, when laws are developed, in order to develop a fair, useful law, current lawmakers will not only study current laws but also the development or history of those laws.
History is an excellent indicator of things to come.
Because we are human, and humans are creatures of habit, history often repeats itself. Learning about past mistakes of our ancestors, along with examples of the losses those mistakes can cause, gives us a stern warning as to why we should not repeat them.
History Repeats Itself
During World War II, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler modeled many of his military campaigns after those of his military hero, Napoleon Bonaparte. Hitler even went as far as to schedule certain military campaigns to correspond with the past dates of Napoleon’s campaigns.
While doing so, Hitler failed to study Napoleon’s losses when he attempted to send his soldiers into Russia. Completely unprepared for Russia’s fierce wintry landscape, many of Napoleon’s men froze to death. When Hitler emulated this campaign, just like Napoleon’s soldiers, the Nazi soldiers met the same fate.
Aside from preventing us from repeating the doomed actions of our ancestors, knowing history also provides a sense of empowerment to the learner. If a person studies her ancestry or personal history, this will provide her with a great deal of helpful information and may assist her in forming an identity of her own.
For example, if a musician discovers that there are many other musicians in his lineage, specifically pianists, this may influence him to give the piano a chance. Likewise, if there is a history of illness in the family, you can be alerted to look for the same health problem.
The Challenges of History
One of the challenges of knowing history is gaining access to accurate data. One of the unfortunate results of reporting histories is the tendency of its writers to report it inaccurately.
It is frequently said that the winner of a war always exaggerates his winnings, and the loser of a war minimizes his loses. Historians are often faced with the challenge of uncovering accurate renderings of history.
It is important, when looking through historical references, to be discerning as well.