History: The ‘Teacher’ That Enlightens the World Through Its ‘Experience’

History is the study of human past with special attention to written records. As we all know, most historical events have been witnessed by the whole world since time immemorial and passed down through words, recorded discussions and documented evidences. Without history, man will be devoid of references to didactic lessons and acts of precedents that are whether to be emulated or avoided.

The study of history paves the way for man to be aware of circumstances leading to disasters or catastrophic consequences, at the same time providing leaders of nations to avoid similar conflicts that had inflicted unbearable dire consequences in the past from repeating. The term ‘history repeats itself’ is ironic and this irony is a direct result of the failure to study history. Unfortunately, nowadays, the subject history struggles for survival in both schools and universities which mean students take history for granted as a lengthy, wordy, boring subject that holds no significance for advancing tertiary education. Some also believe that the study of history has no practical purpose for daily survival. Students need to be made aware that history is not mere records of past events but also a documentation of facts that serves educational purposes to mankind throughout. I would liken history to a great teacher educating us in the name of experience.

History takes man on a journey of pathos, joy, victory, defeats, revolutions and heroism. It provides concrete instructions to man to learn from past events. In history, the documentation of past events are written and documented neatly so that it could provide lessons to human beings on not to repeat past mistakes. For instance, we all know about what happened during World War II. Nations fought, each with its own justifications to go to war. Many lives were lost, mostly innocent people were killed, lots of traumas, destruction of properties, homes and people being displaced, and the mass pollution caused by an assortment of weapons being paraded as one’s pride of invention, which were used indiscriminately during the war. If we retrospect, we would not want to have a repetition of such tragedies in the future. By learning and digesting the way past events had taken place, we are given the liberty to make a choice, whether to further extend the destruction or to prevent it so that there will not be any repetition of such worse kind.

Besides that, history introduces civilized manners to man on the ethics of ‘how one should live life’. This opens man to the various religious doctrines and dogmas that had evolved throughout time. We learn not only the people of a certain nation, but also the history of the country itself by scrutinizing the subject of history. Time and time, the lessons learned in history hold solid to the notion that diversification of races and religions should not be the dividing factor among the human race, as human emotions are universal. Discriminating people due to geographical reasons is another act of stupidity as pain, sorrow, trauma, joy, suffering and disease are traits and plights that affect everyone be they black, white or brown or be they from northern or southern hemisphere.

Another leaning of history is that it had paraded noble, humble, witty and altruistic leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, who opened the door for peace and despised ‘an eye for an eye’ notion of revenge. Gandhi gave the world the word ‘ahimsa’ literally means non-violence. His struggles, based on this concept of Christ, also gained him the title of ‘Mahatma’ or The Great Soul. From history, we were also made aware that not all whites supported slavery. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America, who helped the blacks gained freedom, was a revered figure in historical annals, subsequently being remembered as one of the finest US Presidents of all time. The depiction of various individuals as great beings, worthy of emulation teaches us the traits that one should possess, to be exemplary and not obnoxious in society. Therefore, history has a pivotal role in humanity, to configure a present individual’s character, traits and development based on the precedent set many years ago.

One of the most valuable characteristic of history is that it teaches man the absolute truth; it beholds the truth of life-the truth of birth and death. Alexander the Great conquered almost half of the world’s lands before breathing his last. His last wish was to have two holes made on both sides of the coffin, and his hands, each one lay on each side of the hole. Alexander, the great conqueror, leaves the world with nothing, just like how we came to this world – ‘naked’. History opens the mind of the readers to a broader perspective of how one is able to view his surroundings and be philosophically involved in facing life challenges.

Moreover, history provides man with ways to progress forward. History is the catalyst for being non-idleness. Through history we know how man had progressed from living in the caves, eating raw food, the discovery of fire, tasting cooked food, and then gradually progressing onto the modern era in which we are living now. By this record, we know that mankind became better and better each time they challenged themselves, facing those challenges and overcoming those challenges. We also made technology as one of the most dependent tools that we are able to depend on each time there is a need to shift our paradigm. It shows that human beings keep progressing and because we know it through our engagement with history, we will be consistently transforming to the better in the future.

Michael Crichton, the famous US writer once said, “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.” Another historical protagonist, Confucius, an influential Chinese philosopher, teacher and political figure of the 4th century B.C. said it fittingly that one must study the past if one would define the future. Definitely, history holds the key for a progressive future of mankind.

Source by RG Mohan Rethnaswamy