I’m always intrigued by the way people generally view history. To some it’s a dead past, uninteresting. Others look on it as a trainspotting exercise in data-collection. Academics, on my experience, use the subject as a device for validating self-worth.
Henry Ford, reputedly, insisted history was ‘bunk’. In a way he was right, because we can’t change the past and what’s important for us in any practical sense is not just today – but tomorrow. But in other ways he missed the point. So do the people who look on history as ‘one d—d thing after another’, or trainspotter-style lists of fun facts, or a ‘trip down memory lane’.
All these views have their value and place, of course. But they miss the point of history as a way of discovering meaning not just about the past – but the present. History, in that broadest sense, is all about explaining the journey from past to present. And through that explanation, we can understand how the shapes and patterns of the present came to be so – deepening our understanding of the present and giving us insights into our likely future.
History, in short, is really a ‘today’ thing. Thoughts?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015