History Matters

Does history matter?

It matters to me. I’ve always been interested in it – knowing how people lived, the things they were interested in, the food they ate, all the little details of daily life, as well as the big picture of great events. So what, I’m a historical novelist and a geek who happens to find it interesting – not everybody does I realise that.

However I do think knowing where you’ve come from, whether as a family or a culture or a society, enables you to see more clearly where you are, and where you might want to go. We don’t talk about history repeating itself for nothing – it’s true – understanding why events happened in a particular way can make it less likely they will be repeated. So, for example, I recall being taught at school that the Allies’ insisting that Germany paid reparations at the end of the Great War was a contributing factor to the rise of fascism there over the following twenty years. Using this knowledge prevented similar reparations being imposed on Germany after the Second World War. Or look at contemporary comparisons between America and the Roman Empire and the behaviour of superpowers. Or take Iraq – look at what happened after the Great War. Or indeed look at Afghanistan – how many Afghan wars did the British fight during the 19th century? Can our leaders really be this historically challenged? Sadly I think the answer is, you betcha.

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2 responses to “History Matters

  1. I’m also fascinated by history, and have been reading a lot about family ghosts in the psychoanalytic work of Nicholas Abrahams and Maria Torok. One of the reasons why history repeats itself in families is that the secrets of our ancestors come down to us as – precisely, secrets. The unexplained but emotionally powerful parts of our parents’ lives haunt us, and because those secrets do not really belong to us, they are hard to resolve and absolve. I think such a thing is possible on a national or cultural scale too, and that lack of elucidation on the past can lead to its inevitable repetition.

  2. Yes, history does matter. It matters because of the discipline and skill of questioning it develops. Questioning what happened based on evidence and sources. It matters because it allows us to ‘be outside of ourselves’, to see and imagine how others lived and coped with the problems they faced.
    It is helped by people such as you sharing an enjoyment of history!

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