Why study history?

What is history ? History is the story of men and women on the face of the earth at a particular period of time who played their part to make up something like a story. Individuals may influence the course of history, but history as such is the sum total of all the actions put together culminating in some shape which the historians conveniently call the period. History may be looked at as the story of the growth of a people or peoples.

History may again reflect the interaction of human emotions ending up in a certain form of society. History may indicate how societies were formed and how they grew. If certain societies survive the onslaught of time while others disappear altogether, history helps understand the forces at work. In short we may not be far from right if we say that history traces the growth of human society. Then why study history ? The above mentioned ideas of history have the answer to this question. There have been periods in history which shows the rise and fall of societies, where great men and women play their part.

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Each country boasts of a certain golden era when a great personality, a king or queen or an Emperor had so much power that he was the centre of the picture. To know the picture is to know the person. Just to quote an example, take the period of Queen Elizabeth I in England. It was a period of expansion for England, it had its moments of glory, it saw the flourishing of art and so on. To know the period, we learn all about the life of the actors on the stage. Individuals may influence the course of history. The great religious founders like the Buddha, Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohamed had influenced the course of history. Quite recently we know how the writings of Rousseau and Voltaire and others influenced the course of the French Revolution that was to follow. In recent times we know how the works of Marx and Engels brought about almost universal revolution and the course of which has not stopped. To know the growth of a people we read history. This is best illustrated by studying the History of the USA. How a few religious people who ran away from their mother country to avoid prosecution went in waves to colonize and almost a powerful country was born. Here one is easily aware of the accidents of history.

History of the Industrial Revolution and the consequent labor movements and many other things which have been the off-shoots of the Revolution are very interesting to know. To know the growth of societies, one must look into history. Thus a study of ancient societies throws light on how such societies were formed and grew. Some forces act as destructive ones, some forces act as incentives and some others go to consolidate the society. A classical example is Munroe which helped the uninhibited growth of USA for nearly a hundred years. History traces the growth of society.

M Irfan


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