Henry Ford once insisted history was ‘bunk’, declaring: ‘We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.’
History has also been listed as ‘one damn thing after another’ – an aphorism likely first uttered by Arnold Toynbee.
So why should we bother with it? Those of us who did history at school – certainly in New Zealand in the twentieth century – probably got sick of having to memorise lists of English monarchs and being told that New Zealand didn’t have a history. I know I did.
Fact is, New Zealand does have a history – and a very interesting one. It’s a history that encompasses everything that makes history worthwhile, because it’s a history – in effect – on fast forwards
Why should we be bothered with history? Because it defines us. Becaue it is about the human condition, about the why of the past – and so, about the why of the present. It’s about how things happened. It’s about the shapes and patterns that changed the past into the present.
It is, in short, about understanding where we’ve been – and from that, understanding where we are now. And, maybe, where we could go in future.
I like it that way. As the world spirals into climate change, and increasingly violent collisions of ideologies and people, one of the ways we can understand what is going on – and how we might work our way out of it – is through understanding history and the way it shapes the present – and future.
What does history mean to you?
And if you want to see what I’m talking about…
Also available on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/nz/book/bateman-illustrated-history/id835233637?mt=11
Nook is coming soon.
Buy the print edition here: http://www.batemanpublishing.co.nz/ProductDetail?CategoryId=96&ProductId=1410
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014