Why is it important to study history? (2023)

Even if you live to be 100, you will never run out of new things to learn. From computer science and cryptocurrency to French literature and Spanish grammar, the world is filled with knowledge and everything is at your fingertips. So why choose history?

A lot of people study history in high school and think it's boring, irrelevant, or both. But as we get older, even by a few years, we begin to see the importance of understanding the past.

Why do we study history?

Why is it important to study history? (1)

We study history because history does not stay behind us. Studying history helps us understand how events in the past made things the way they are today. With the lessons of the past, we not only learn about ourselves and how we came to be, but also develop the ability to avoid mistakes and create better ways for our societies.

How does history affect our lives today?

Events in the past have displaced families and groups, changed the composition of regions and often created tensions. Such events have also created systems of government that have lasted for generations when they began. And all of this affects every human being alive today.

Take the Great Depression, for example - one of the most difficult but impactful periods in American history. The economic crisis set inalmost 15 million peopleunemployed and leaving countless families homeless, robbing them of a sense of security. Many of these people would feel insecure for the rest of their lives.

(Video) Why is it important to study history?

The government had tolearn how to help. These efforts resulted in Social Security, federal emergency relief programs, and funding for unemployment benefits. These changes continue to make life safer for millions of Americans.

Today's society is made up of hundreds and thousands of actions like this. The more you learn about how these things happened, the better you understand real life.

What lessons can we learn from history?

History teaches us things like:

  • Why some societies thrive while others fail.
  • Why people went to war.
  • How people have changed society for the better.

History is not a study of others. The people you learn from may have lived decades or even centuries ago, but their actions directly affect how we live our lives today. Events that appear like dates on a page have been turning points in the history of our societies.

"Historical knowledge is nothing more and nothing less than a carefully and critically constructed collective memory." -William H. MacNeill, former President of theAmerican Historical Association

Historical research builds and codifies these stories. When we study history, we learn how we got to where we are and why we live the way we live. It is the study of us - of people and our place in an ever-changing world. Without it, we wouldn't understand all our triumphs and failures, and we'd keep repeating patterns without working towards anything better.

As the Spanish philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past arecondemned to repeat it.

How do past events help us to understand the present?

Why is it important to study history? (2)

(Video) Why Study History?

The past creates the present. Our modern world exists because of events that happened long before our time. Only by understanding these events can we know how we got here and where we need to go next.

1. History helps us understand change

The story is full of transitions that changed the history of the world. As you expand your knowledge of history, you will understand more about what created our society today.

Studying the American civil rights movement will show you how people successfully organize against oppressive systems. As you learn about the fall of Rome, you learn that even the most powerful society can fall apart - and what happens to cause that collapse.

By learning about different eras and their respective events, you begin to see what changes might happen in the future and what would drive those changes.

2. We learn from past mistakes

History gives us a better understanding of the world and how it works. If you study a war, you will learn more about how conflicts escalate. You will learn about the dilemmas faced by leaders around the world and how they react to them - and when these decisions lead to better or worse results.

Historical studies show you the warning signs of many types of disasters, from genocide to inaction on climate change. Understanding these patterns will make you a better informed citizen and help you act effectively.

3. We gain context for human experience

Prior to 2020, most Americans had not experienced a global pandemic. The1918-1919 Grippepandemiehad vanished from the popular picture of history, overshadowed by World War I at its tail end and the roaring 20s that followed.

But within months of COVID-19 entering the public consciousness, historians and informed individuals were again writing about the flu pandemic. Stories from Adeadly second wavewere retold to warn people of the dangers of travel, and images of ancestors in masks reappeared.

(Video) Why Study History?

By studying the past, we understand our own lives better. We see patterns when they reappear and take comfort in the fact that others have gone through similar struggles

How do we study history?

Why is it important to study history? (3)

There are many ways to study and teach history. Many people remember high school classes full of memorization—names, dates, and locations of important historical events.

Decades ago, this type of memorization was important, but things have changed. Today,60% of the world populationAnd90% of the US populationuse the internet and can find these facts on request. Today,learning historyit's about making connections and understanding not just what happened, but why.

Critical thinking

If you've ever served on a jury or read about a court case, you know that reconstructing the facts of the past is no easy process. You must consider the facts at hand, see how they relate, and draw reasonable conclusions.

Takethe fall of Rome, For example. In the final years of the Roman Empire, central government was unstable, but the empire continued to spend money on expansion. Outside groups like the Huns and Saxons took advantage of this instability and invaded. The empire had split into East and West, further shattering the sense of unity, and Christianity replaced the Roman polytheistic religion.

When you become a history student, you learn to process such facts and consider how one event affected the other. An expanding empire is harder to control and invasions put an additional strain on resources. But what caused this instability in the first place? And why did expansion remain so important?

Once you learn to think this way and ask these types of questions, you begin to be more actively engaged with the world around you.

(Video) Why History Matters | Patrick Allitt | TEDxEmory

Finding the "so what?"

The study of history is fascinating, but that's not the only reason we do it. Learning facts and following the thread of a story is only the first step.

The most important question in the story is "So what?".

For example:

  • Why were the Chinese so successful in maintaining their empire in Asia? Why did that change after the Industrial Revolution?
  • Why wasthe invasion of Normandy1944 a turning point? What would happen if the Allies hadn't landed on French beaches?

Studying in this way allows you to see the relevance and meaning of the story while gaining a deeper and more enduring understanding of what happened.

Where can I study history online?

Why is it important to study history? (4)

The quality of your history class matters. You can read about important historical events on hundreds of websites and YouTube videos, but it's hard to know if you're getting the whole story. Many secondary sources are a godsend when it comes to quality history teaching.

Preferablylearn historyfrom a reputable educational institution.edXhas history courses from some of the world's top universities, includingHarvard,Columbia, AndTel Aviv. Explore a topic in depth or take an overview approach - it's up to you. The whole world is at your fingertips.

  • MOOC.org
  • Article
  • Story
  • MOOC.org
  • Article
  • Academic


1. Why is it important to study history?
2. Why Do We Study History
(Adran Hanes)
3. Why Study History
(Amy Fitzgerald)
4. What is History for?
(The School of Life)
5. Why Do We HAVE To Study HISTORY?!
(Heimler's History)
6. Why Study History?
(Joanna Hayes)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Nicola Considine CPA

Last Updated: 02/09/2023

Views: 5923

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (49 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Nicola Considine CPA

Birthday: 1993-02-26

Address: 3809 Clinton Inlet, East Aleisha, UT 46318-2392

Phone: +2681424145499

Job: Government Technician

Hobby: Calligraphy, Lego building, Worldbuilding, Shooting, Bird watching, Shopping, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Nicola Considine CPA, I am a determined, witty, powerful, brainy, open, smiling, proud person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.