Any subject of study has its supporters and detractors. History is no exception. People are often uncertain why they should spend time studying it – or even what the point of history is. Like most widely accepted subjects, it attracts some people purely because they enjoy the information and modes of thought involved, but those less spontaneously drawn to it need to be convinced about why it is worth their while.
In one sense, the answer is simple: history teaches us about ourselves and our place in the world. By examining the experiences of past generations, we can see how they shaped cultures and societies, and the challenges they faced. History also provides a framework through which we can test our own morals and values, by looking at the choices of others in difficult situations. History teaches us that it is possible to overcome adversity, and inspires courage and perseverance.
Another key purpose of history is to help us understand change and continuity in society. By studying the big changes in our world, we can see how they come about, and why certain periods in time seem to be turning points while others appear to be just a continuation of previous trends.
Historical knowledge also helps us to be more rational and avoid getting caught up in irrational thinking, like conspiracy theories, which tend to spread faster during times of stress. Understanding how major events have influenced societies and changed lives in the past, can give us some insight into how and why these things happen, so that we can better protect ourselves from being swayed by false narratives.
Historians also use their skills to analyse how and why different groups of people see the same events differently, which is known as historiography. This is because every generation sees the past through its own set of priorities, standards and beliefs, which will influence how it is interpreted and understood. Historians are therefore always assessing how important an event, person or moment was at the time, and what impact it has had on the world around them, in order to determine its significance.
People who are interested in a particular field of history, such as the history of movies or Arabia, may also specialise in a particular type of historiography. However, the fundamentals of history remain the same regardless of what era or area of focus is being studied. This is because all historians have to follow the same rules of investigation, which include ensuring that they have access to primary sources and that they are not biased.
Many people argue that knowing the history of a country, culture or religion gives them a sense of identity, and allows them to feel more connected with their roots. By learning about the struggles of those who fought for rights and freedoms, people can understand how important it is to continue fighting for them today. Whether it is knowing about the fight for women’s rights or the struggle of Black people, the importance of history is universal.