Why read history?

SnakHistory at 30,000 feet: The Big Picture

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Why read history?

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feb 5, 2018, 11:33pm

WHY READ HISTORY? My view: For starters, History is all-encompassing. It's all human activity beginning with the prehistoric era. Most readers of history are in and out of political-, cultural-, psycho-, art-, economic-, social-, and socioeconomic- history… and other sub-disciplines of historical reading. It makes our world bigger and more exciting. We often stumble onto specific works that may include two or three sub-disciplines of history. In the end, we're learning about different cultures of various parts of the world or even within our own country. Hopefully, readers of history can't help but become more understanding, open and empathetic to other peoples and their cultures. Individually, reading history gives context to our own lives as viewed through our familial backgrounds: What political or cultural events (uplifting or tragic) affected our parents', grandparents', great-grandparents', ... lives that, in turn, affected or evolved their values… values then handed down to us? Values handed down in a large way make each of us who we are, what we may become and what we may strive for. And damn, history provides the most exciting stories ever from the truly uplifting to the downright depressive - - - because of the extreme violence that humans continue and will always inflict on each other- - - much of this simply due to ill-education and/or pure ignorance but more often due to an aspect of human nature. That is, a mentality that says, more for me and more for my "tribe"; less for you and your tribe because you're not like us/me. Marx had it right. All history boils down to economic competition whether prehistoric beings fighting for survival or giant corporations that will always produce individuals who, in their minds, can never have enough stuff, status or power and who muck it up for the rest of us.

feb 6, 2018, 11:37am

Geography and history are the two most important disciplines for understanding today's world. In this STEM crazed world we don't teach enough of either.

feb 7, 2018, 3:55am

I'd like to ban politicians from taking office until they've done some sort of degree in history.

feb 7, 2018, 8:33am

At this point I almost think I'd like to ban people from voting unless they've shown a good grasp of history.

feb 7, 2018, 11:31pm

We've had tests for voters in the past. It hasn't gone well.

feb 8, 2018, 5:30am

>1 deVaca: Marx had it right. All history boils down to economic competition whether prehistoric beings fighting for survival or giant corporations...

Marx may have diagnosed the problem accurately. His solution sucked, though I'm not seeing much better from unbridled capitalism.

maj 14, 2018, 8:13pm

More reasons in answer to "WHY READ HISTORY?": Reading history gives us a better understanding of, and appreciation of the humanities, especially literature and the fine arts. After all, many great works have proved to be prescient, were/are commentaries and studies of society, and were/are reactions to an ever evolving, changing world. Now, when readers of history view great art and read great works of literature, we have an enhanced ability to understand perhaps what the creator or author was trying to express and why particular subjects and stories were created in the first place. This is because we have, hopefully, a good grasp of the historical setting that surrounded the author/creator. And now, as far as fun goes, we can really enjoy the next wonderful film or Masterpiece Theater series!

maj 15, 2018, 3:10pm

for entertainment ?

maj 18, 2018, 10:46am

There are a lot of reasons to read history, and very definitely entertainment is one. If I didn't enjoy reading history I wouldn't.

I agree with >7 deVaca: that history gives us a better understanding of the humanities, but I think it's backwards. Reading literature, viewing art, listening to music helps us understand the human race better. History is much more than facts, it's understanding other cultures and societies and the factors that drove them. I guess I like history because it's about people on the grand scale.

But to back you up, deVaca, absolutely understanding history puts literature in the right context. I can't say how many times (but a lot) I've read fiction and been curious to read the history of the period. Ruth Downie made me more curious about Rome. Bernard Cornwell writing on Anglo-Saxon England and Agincourt made me dig into medieval history.