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Sep 8, 2018

History: Why We Study It

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Odds are, something you’ve done in the past has made you think, “this really seems familiar.” You may ask yourself why. To answer that question, the most important concept of both history and our lives has always been patterns.

The term “history” is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as a “chronological record of significant events (such as those affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their cause.” We keep a record of such events because we tend to learn something out of nearly everything, regardless of size, impact, or recency. Take the American Civil War, for example. Most people see it as two sides of one country fighting for control and political dominance, but we tend to overlook the details that matter most. Within one lengthy glance, we can identify many takeaways within just the motives behind the war. We can see that America was young (although it was nearly a century old at the time) and was unstable and unpredictable. We can also identify the brutal savagery of killing another American. But we also see how much the everyday person, whether it be a farmer, a businessman, or even a peasant, was willing to sacrifice for his/her idealistic society. To be willing to kill a fellow American, a fellow patriot that found new life after his country’s independence from a hegemonial leader, truly encapsulates how much society means to a person.

 

Fast forward to today, and while you and I may not be the stone-cold, hardboiled killer that many members of the Confederacy and Union were, we have many attributes that are near parallel to those historical figures. We may be divided on a multitude of topics, such as our political standpoint, view on traditional gender roles, etc., yet we are all prepared to stand our ground and defend our ideas. The one word that sums this all up? Patterns. Always be looking for them.

 

I may not be an aspiring historian, but I feel most comfortable when studying history, because the concept of seeing yourself in historical figures of the past demonstrates how closely related human minds are to one another. We study history not only because we are forced into doing so by our educational administration, but because we use past experiences independent of ourselves to shape what our future incarnations will look to be. I encourage you all to continue learning about history, not tediously for the AP United States History exam, but to truly ingest the information and identify and learn from the past. Our generation needs thinkers who are adept in critical thinking and comprehension, not solely for future professions in academia, but for our everyday lives, jobs, and decisions.