What is History?
The word history comes from two Greek words. The first is histor: a wise or learned person. The second is historia, which means finding out things, and making a narrative. This etymology should give us a clue to the meaning of the word ‘history’!
History is the academic discipline of making sense of the past. The practice of writing history is known as historiography.
In the present day, history can mean two things.
Firstly, history can mean past events – especially when those past events are made into a continuous narrative of cause and effect.
Secondly, history refers to the study of past events. History in this sense of the word is taught in schools and universities, and performed by historians throughout the world.
So, history is both the past, and the academic discipline that is dedicated to studying the past. Despite being all about the past, though, history is so important to us in the present day as well.
Below, you will find 10 convincing reasons why history is important.
Why is History Important?
1. Staying in touch with our ancestors. Understanding where we came from is a vital part of understanding ourselves. When we understand the people who came before us, we can understand how our own attitudes have been shaped by theirs.
2. Making sense of the present. Understanding history helps us to understand how events lead to other events, and how certain decisions tend to have a certain set of results. This enables us to predict or analyze the ways in which events are unfolding in the present day as well.
3. Avoiding mistakes. The bad choices of political leaders in the past should teach us a lesson. Thinking about the effects of these choices can enable us to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
4. Understanding our actions better. A casual remark can have centuries of historical meaning behind it. Learning how to behave kindly towards others is only possible if we understand the history behind our language, and our attitudes.
5. A good story. Well told, history makes a great narrative. There are plenty of great stories to be found in the biographies of historical figures. These range from tales of exploration to beautiful love stories that are all the more romantic because they are true.
6. Putting things into perspective. There is more to the story of human life than the present day. The study of the many centuries of civilization that have stretched before us reminds us that we should have some perspective on our actions in the present.
7. Laws and customs. Many laws and customs are enshrined in history. The study of history enables us to understand how these traditions and legal rules have arisen, and how they have affected people in the past.
8. Historical tastes. Trying out some historical recipe ideas is so much fun! Try it yourself – you may get a little culinary inspiration.
9. Entertainment. Period dramas, historical re-enactments and historical documentaries are a very compelling and significant form of entertainment.
10. The joy of learning. Humans enjoy learning in its own right. The study of history is a great way to expand our minds, sharpen our research and analytical skills and accumulate new facts.
11. Traditions: We can only understand much of our present day life if we see how it forms part of a historical tradition.
12. Discoveries: When most of the world has been explored, history still offers opportunity for discovery.
History informs who we are in the present day, in so many different ways. For this reason, it is very important to know something about history. Understanding history makes it less likely that we will repeat the mistakes that humans have done in the past. Understanding history will help to guide our future actions so that we act in the way that is best for humanity.