Wondering Why?

Why do historians study the past?

‘Live today, but know the past’, we are often told by sages. A certain part of our school coursework involves a study of history, and there are people called historians, who study the past as a profession. History is often considered boring and irrelevant, but there are reasons why we bother about it.

Man is a curious creature. We humans are not content with living an isolated life in the present. That is why we explore and research. The perfect example is Space exploration, which while being extremely costly, has immense potential to satiate our curiosity buds. History is no different. The urge to know about our beginnings, our ancestors and our cultures has led to the formation of a subject and profession, called History and Historians, respectively.

It is also not only about curiosity. Studying the past is also about learning from it. Historical events like WW2 and the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombing, tell us about mistakes that should not be made again. Also, History can give us a broader perspective on life. Because we originated from a few select cultures, we can trace and learn how our roots are entwined. The knowledge gained from historical study, can help project how our future will work out. Historians believe that most events occur on a cyclical basis and studying them can ensure a better tomorrow. Those who do not learn from history, are doomed to repeat it!

Studying the past is like watching a recorded movie of life itself. Historians try to interpret it, and use that knowledge to tell us what we were, and then project us into the future and tell us what we can be. Today when we talk about someone doing something big, we use an oft-repeated phrase: ‘creating history’.

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