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The importance of being a student of history

Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2012 18:02

"Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. For what is the time of a man, except it be interwoven with that memory of ancient things of a superior age?" – Cicero

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say that history is useless or not as important as other subjects. While I understand that history is not everybody's cup of tea, it is very important. Every subject or area of study uses history, and it is vital we study and understand our history. History has the unfortunate reputation of being forced to remember dates and events, but it is so much more than simple regurgitation of timelines. has five definitions of "history:"

1.  The branch of knowledge dealing with past events.

2.  A continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, person, etc., usually written as a chronological account; chronicle: a history of France; a medical history of the patient.

3. The aggregate of past events.

4. The record of past events and times, especially in connection with the human race.

5. A past notable for its important, unusual, or interesting events: a ship with a history.


Of course, all the social sciences use history for their specific areas of study. Mathematics and the sciences use history to help solve problems and aide in research, as formulas, rules, theorems and student experiments are a historical element for these branches of knowledge.


More important than academia, history reminds of us where we came from as people, a nation and a globe. I know this cliché, but "history is doomed to repeat itself," unless we study and learn from it.

No more is this true than when we study events such as the World Wars. WWI has  been called the Great War or the war to end all wars, but ultimately the events of WWI led to WWII. For some reason or another, nations and people forget the consequences of events until they are faced with them again.


While we have not had wars on that great of a scale since the second world war, I fear that time will continue to progress, and as it inevitably does, society will forget the consequences and effects of a major world war.


As the calendar progresses and veterans and people during those eras pass away, we lose our direct link and memory of those events if we do not pay attention to our history. History to me is much more than dates, people and events; it is a lesson and guiding force.


The past is something we need to consider to prepare for the future. You can look back at what was successful and what failed and then decide what the best course of action is.


Also, like Cicero said, "Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever." I think a great part of growing up is knowing what happened before you. Societies and nations do not happen in a vacuum, but are fought for, forged and disappear. We have to know and remember what happened before us to gain a sense of who we are and where we need and want to go.  

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