Reasons to Study History
History gives us inspiration and motivation
History informs us because it tells us the ways of the past and how things came to be. These can be represented by folktales, myths, and legends. It also informs us because it tells us how to do things. Say the people of the past did something we do today, it means we probably inherited their skills of doing things.
History is not only ‘useful’, but it is also essential
So understanding the linkages between past and present is absolutely basic for a good understanding of the condition of being human. That, in a nutshell, is why History matters. It is not just ‘useful’, it is essential. The study of the past is essential for ‘rooting’ people in time.
History has given us millions of brilliant ideas
From stone tablets to smartphones, from chariots to self-driving cars, history has provided a sea of brilliant ideas. Ideas like ‘domesticating plants’ and ‘using machines to manufacture shirts’ have propelled human societies into a rapid phase of developmental expansion. And right now, we’re only at the beginning of that phase of growth.
History helps us empathize with others’ struggles
Studying the diversity of human experience helps us appreciate cultures, ideas, and traditions that are not our own — and to recognize them as meaningful products of specific times and places. History helps us realize how different our lived experience is from that of our ancestors, yet how similar we are in our goals and values.
Everything Has a History
Everything we do, everything we use, everything else we study is the product of a complex set of causes, ideas, and practices. Even the material we learn in other courses has important historical elements — whether because our understanding of a topic changed over time or because the discipline takes a historical perspective. There is nothing that cannot become grist for the historian’s mill.