History

A lot of people these days have scant regard for history. Whether local, national, or world history, they think it has little or no relevance to their lives. It was something that happened at a time that didn’t concern them. A time when there was no Internet, video games, or fast-food outlets. Not even a phone, let alone a mobile phone. History is falling out of favour. Less people are studying it, and fewer people than ever before have an active interest in it. An unscientific random poll of younger people I know shows an alarming lack of knowledge about it, allied to an active and vocally expressed disinterest in anything to do with it.

Personally speaking, I cannot imagine any subject more interesting. How we got to where we are today, what caused the international issues and problems we experience on a daily basis, and how the iconic buildings we admire came to be built. The origins of language, our genetic make-up, and everything we are. It’s all history. Once you have read this post, it will become part of history. Everything we touch, make, discuss, or admire. All of that is tomorrow’s history. It is inescapable, yet hardly given a moment’s thought. Wars, religions, ruling dynasties, lines drawn on maps, and empires built then fallen. The amazing story of the modern world, overlooked for a Facebook page, or a chat on Whatsapp. Send a tweet, a photo of what you are wearing, or what you had for lunch, and it becomes history, whether you appreciate it, or not.

The Internet has made history personal, in a way that could never have been imagined, when monks dutifully copied books, or women sewed the Bayeaux Tapestry, in 1067. We have memorial days for historical characters, remembrance days for those fallen in wars. But how long will all this last, if younger generations decide that it is no longer of interest, and does not need to be celebrated, or remembered? Wherever you live, you are surrounded by history. The history of indigenous peoples, ancient stones and monuments, churches, cathedrals, statues, and art. But if it no longer matters to you, then it will be lost, possibly forever.

People visit amazing countries like Egypt, then describe it as a ‘lot of old stones’. Some wander around iconic sites, with no comprehension of how old they really are, or their importance in the development of mankind. Just get that selfie, with it in the background, and job done. Others visit Mayan and Aztec remains, then complain about the heat, or the lack of facilities, somehow expecting history to be sanitized to their modern tastes. For many, the dates merge. One war seems much like another, until they are unable to separate WW1 from WW2 for example. Go back further, say to the English Civil War, and a blank expression comes over their faces. Every country suffers from this lack of interest, it seems. From British people who know little or nothing about the Romans, or Anglo Saxons, to Americans who think the world began in 1776.

Perhaps the school system is to blame? I recall much of my official history teaching centred around things like the Industrial Revolution; railways, and the invention of machinery. The Corn Laws, the electoral reform, and the progress during the Victorian Age. It needs to be more interesting, to adopt a wider scope, be relevant to localities, and things you can actually see, without having to make a trip to a dusty museum in London, or any capital city. When we watch things on the news, whether 9/11, the wars in the middle east, or terror attacks in cities, that is all about history. People ask, ‘Why’? But they have never been taught the background, those very reasons why. And even if they have been, they thought it was something that they didn’t need to know.

There is a very old adage, penned by George Santayana.
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.
George got that right. Let’s all try our best to inspire younger people to get interested in history again. Stop them repeating all the mistakes that are there, for everyone to see.

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120 thoughts on “History

  1. Important issue – I think you hit the nail on the head in regards to people’s attention span being limited by the need for immediate gratification through WhatsApp etc. From my own experiences in the British education system, I know that a good teacher makes all the difference in the world!
    Another major reason why there isn’t so much interest in History is because there doesn’t need to be – the West is going through a period prosperity and stability unlike any in history, so the lessons of the past seem meaningless because things are going so well. It’s like the 2nd USA President John Adams said “I must study Politics and War so that my sons can study Mathematics and Philosophy, they must do so in order for their children to learn Arts, Poetry and Music”. We’re in the last phase of the phrase.
    Tariq

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love history! But not until I left school and discovered the amusing and interesting parts of history they seemed to skip over in school. I home educate my own children, and I’ve made sure to include rich resources that will excite them to learn more about history, local and beyond. We history lovers have to keep the momentum going! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally agree with Santayana’s words. It seems that many governments (especially the one that resides in Washington, DC) conveniently ignore any lessons learned from past mistakes in a bid for ever more personal power and financial gain (greed).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. With a good teacher who can relate the past with today’s events or “translate” and summarize the details into a story, rather than a collection of facts, kids can gain a foundation of interest in history. A true appreciation of history, however, seems to come with age. I’ve found that the longer I live the more reflective I become, even beyond my years. I’m writing a historical fiction that unfolds during the War of 1812, and I actually love the research needed to tell it. This same stuff would have bored me not too many years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s good to hear, Matt. I loved history from a very young age of course, and have never tired of learning more.
      Good luck with the book. The War of 1812 is almost forgotten, so could do with a ‘revival’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s always wonderful to come across people who still appreciate the charm and fervour of History as a subject, a tool of knowledge, a study of perspectives and, in fact, a pattern of how life has prevailed, is prevailing and how it shall continue to prevail.

    Lovely articulation of a thought-provoking topicality!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this post! I tutor middle school students, and middle school is where the teaching of history stops . The kids seem to enjoy it, and the teachers make it relevant to today’s world, but once they get to high school it ends unless the student specifically selects it for one of their courses. Most students never study history in college – at least not western civilization. Maybe this is why so many are ready to tear down reminders of the past or find them offensive – they don’t know the history!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. One of my pet peeves! The lack of knowledge about basic history (never mind the detailed stuff). There is less reliance on rote teaching of facts in school I think. Pupils are encouraged to research if needed. So..to the small percentage that can be bothered that means wiki! (A great resource but not 100% reliable!). I was (still am) fascinated by history. I also like the details. But I do despair when my grandkids just shrug if I ask who Nelson or Napoleon was!!

    It’s the present and future I’m afraid.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, John. I can only agree that reliance on electronic information will produce generations of people who rely too heavily on snapshots of history, as well as everything else.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  8. I have heartening news Pete, yes lots of us young and old are tempted by the new fangled social media. I’ve had to push myself to go back to reading books rather than feeds and blogs. I’ve had to watch movies before going down the rabbit hole of youtube but when I speak to people younger than me I hear people with a far greater understanding of lifespans and history that I had at that age. A lot will have chowed down on some documentary about real world issues and sought complexity in their news rather than the corporate agendas of the conventional network programs. They seem more worldly and less self involved than previous generations in that instance. I have no doubt there are a lot of morons out of there but this was always the case. Consider this, when I was 17 during a lunch break a friend of mine made a point she didn’t know a lot about history. She asked who knew who the first Prime Minister of Australia was because she didn’t. She went around the group. Nobody knew except me, Edmund Barton I told her. She joined the Army after school and served on peacekeeping operations in the Solomon Islands. Everybody in that group standing there that day who didn’t know the answer all pull down more bank than I do every year and are successful in their chosen careers with families and houses. They’ve probably all know quite a great deal of history. To this day I couldn’t tell you what kind of Prime Minister Barton made. I guess the point is twofold. There’s a time to be young and ignorant and in my humble opinion like any other cohort young people are a varied bunch. Many of them seem to know a lot of history.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Incredibly well said. I guess a greater understanding of why history is relevant to people now and how we have got to where we are would be great. I’ve always been incredibly fascinated in history but I do think that (from my British perspective) there is way too much of a concentration on what kings and nobles were doing rather than what life was like for everyday people in the past. For people , especially if they come from a working class background like I do find it a bit hard to identify with the mega rich elite.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Many thanks for reading, and leaving a comment. Like you, I come from a working class background, (in Central London) and was always interested in how the Royals and aristocrats gained their position, and wealth. History taught me it was because they were the most cruel and ruthless, had bigger groups of armed friends, and stole everything from the ordinary person by means of force.
      One lesson I carried through life, along with many others discovered by studying history.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I completly agree with your saying but I guess I meant more from the point of view of people who aren’t into history anyway. I’ve always loved studying the higher ups in society because I have an interest in history as a whole.
        Buy yeah history teaches us everything we need to know for life, all the mistakes have already been made and it’s such a mistake that we as a society don’t see that.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Well said, Pete. I think it’s HOW history is taught that makes it meaningful to students. Once hooked, they’ll have that lifelong interest, like we do. Case in point: a history teacher teaching the Civil War changed his beard every week. “Who am I?” became a huge part of learning about the historical figures. Excellent post.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely, Pete. You have to love your job, especially teaching. And if you love it, like the bearded teacher, you change the thinking of students, and… I could go on. Best to you.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I have also noticed this trend, Pete, and it is frightening. Your closing quote is very true and I am astonished at how many people, here in Southern Africa, think that Europeans and especially the English have always lived the life they live now. My mom grew up in a house with an outside toilet and 10 people living in a tiny, three bedroomed house. This is one of the big reasons I wrote my forthcoming book, While the Bombs Fell.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I like a bit of history, even if it never stoked my fire when I was younger. Luckily for me one of my students (sounds better than the lad I speak to in English once a week) is mad about history. I’m now well versed in Poland’s rise and fall over the centuries and his knowledge of WWI and II, equipment, planes, the people involved, is astounding. Mention Waterloo and he will tell you the formations, the units involved and how the battle unfolded, The Crimean War and the Charge of the Light Brigade, who when and what spill out as if taught from birth. He is in short an encyclopaedia of war, I often find myself reading about the subject whilst we talk so that I can carry the conversation along as his enthusiasm is infectious.
    So there is hope Pete, you just have to find it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Pete, I took history courses in college, and also learned a lot of history by way of literature (mostly French literature, of course!). My favorite college professor was an American History professor who taught us all about the Civil War in a way that was entertaining, informative, and thoroughly engaging. He made us feel like we were witnessing the action! His tests revealed whether or not we wrote down every single word he ever said in class. Very tough! But I was a master note taker, so I always aced the exams.

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  14. Love the quote Pete, obviously it resonates with people who have more of their own history to reflect on.
    With age comes wisdom??

    “We are not makers of history. We are made by history”
    Martin Luther King Jr.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Dearest Peter, being born in Ukraine, we are pretty much obsessed with the history and 20st-century historical facts. The whole family are historical junkies and my teen son only watches blk and white documentaries, which is mind-boggling to me, but at least its historical info. It is not falling out of favor in my house. IN fact, its alive and thriving very much, indeed. Let me assure you that the history will not be repeated, no sir.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great Post, Pete!😀 I love History and this saddens me.😢 Also this is off subject but every time I go on your site there is a Privacy & Cookies notice and every time I hit close and accept, it pops right back up. Maybe it’s just my device acting up but I have been paranoid about said cookie monster!🍪🍪🍪

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That P&C notice is a glitch on my site, Dani. I have reported it to WP, and they said to delete the widget, which I did. But it won’t go away! 🙂 x So, nothing to worry about.
      Glad to hear you are a history fan honey.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Like

  17. Well said……I have found that some visitors to IST try to equate history with something else and try to say that how do we know it is the truth…..we must remember our perish as my grandfather use to say….well done….chuq

    Liked by 2 people

  18. This saddens me because history was always my favorite subject in school. One of my most memorable high school teachers was a strict disciplinarian named Mr. Grim. (If you were 1/2 a second late to class he’d shut the door in your face and leave you cooling your heels in the hall for 10 minutes!) But God, could that man teach! I took his AP European History and Ancient History classes my junior and senior years, and the way he brought these time periods to life were breathtaking. I will ever forget him or what he taught me.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I remember my history teacher Mr Finch (Also great name) explaining the battle of Hastings to us by getting different students around the class to mimic the movements of the different armies during the build up to the battle. It was an inspiring lesson and most importantly it was fun, which I think is the most important thing because most of the students in a class never seemed to enjoy history

        Liked by 1 person

  19. It is refreshing that only two of your commentators, one at length, were of the mind that history is not important. I wonder if one sampled their blogs if one would find them repeating dogma and errors of the past?
    Great post, Pete.
    Warmest regards, Theo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Theo. John and I have swapped opinions on the subject for some time now. Given the nature of ‘blogging communities’, I suspect many of us are going to be on the same page, historically speaking. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Cindy seems to have many interested students in Arizona, (see her comment below) which is great to hear. If there is a resurgence of interest in the subject, that will make me very happy.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. You know I’m on your page, Pete! I find it truly worrying that so few people ‘get’ the importance of history. Mind, you could argue that nobody paid any heed to it even when they did learn about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I was doing A-level history at school, there were only a few of us in the class. They missed a trick though, as by then we had got onto the Russian Revolution, WW1, and up to The Spanish Civil War. More interesting than the Spinning Jenny perhaps. (Though that had a huge impact on the cotton trade, so was equally important in many respects.)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Like all subjects History is only as interesting as the teacher makes it. Aspects of history can enthral anyone, be it the history of steam engines or the wives of Henry 8th. It’s just that some children only care about the present. Looking at old buildings or old bones does nothing for them, but the battles of the Greeks or the story of the native Americans might catch their interest.A flexible curriculum and an enthusiastic teacher is the key.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very true, Julie. I think the English curriculum was stuck on the Industrial revolution for far too long. I was at school less than a couple of miles from the Roman Wall in the City of London, yet knew nothing about that, until I read about it for myself.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  22. As the great Bob Marley said In this bright future you can’t forget you past! I wouldn’t agree about the bright future given the effects of climate change – but perhaps if we looked back to some of the great extinction events we’d be a little wiser!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I have a master’s degree in History and think of myself as a social historian. I am very lucky because I get to talk about it all day long–U.S., World, and Holocaust Studies–to students who come through the doors of our 1200 population high school. I try to make it as interesting and inspirational as possible. It’s the most exciting, horrifying, interesting subject out there. I can’t imagine teaching algorithms. Students love talking about war. I was surprised this year by my 14-year-olds who had an impressive background knowledge of WWI and WWII. One even partakes in WWII reenactments in the area.
    So, while it SEEMS like no one cares about history, there are many who do! And believe it or not, you can thank the video game industry for that.
    Students like the story as long as you don’t make them read the primary documents…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for your personal insight and current experience, Cindy. If some of the new generation are getting a renewed interest in the subject, then I am more than happy to be proved wrong.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I never liked history in school overly much, industrial revolution, war of the roses de dah de dah, and after school I was caught up in nurse training then marriage, kid, working all hours, so as a young person history wasn’t even an issue I cared about at all, so perhaps that has a lot to do with it. But now I’m all over it, love researching the history behind the places I go with my camera, love good historical novels, I could just fill my boots with all the stories of the world. It embiggens the mind and teaches you understanding and sometimes compassion for other people in the world. I feel quite sorry for people who don’t get that it isn’t a useless dwelling in the past but is a blue print for a future if only one uses it that way, and without a past, there is no present and therefore no future.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. All 100% correct, FR. It is good that you finally got to History, albeit later in life. I appreciate that some of the teaching is all about wars and dates, and I feel it should all be made much more personal and regional,to try to capture the interest of the younger generation.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I love History. If some young people show no interest in the past and remain ignorant of it, then how will they have any idea of how much society/culture has changed over the centuries? I like nothing better than learning about the figures and events of the past and find it all endlessly fascinating.
    Learn from the past, it’s the best teacher that you will ever have in my opinion.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Mr O is a massive history buff so I can’t escape his endless rewatching of seemingly endless Nazi documentaries… Hitler’s Henchmench, Nazi Megastructure’s, Goebels’ Armpit and if that wasn’t enough we are regularly lulled to sleep by Simon Sharma. While I am not as engrossed by the past as he is, history was one of my favourite subjects at school… partly because I had some excellent teachers and partly because the concept of cause and effect and how one thing leads to another fascinates me. I think not knowing at least about the major events and periods in human timelines really restricts your understanding of the world and your enjoyment of so much entertainment that is out there. I guess so much of it has to do with what your family is interested in… both my parents had such vast general knowledge and such an interest in sharing it. My mum and my grandmothers loved crossword puzzles and atlases and dictionaries and my dad is a voracious reader who feels compelled to research every novel he reads in depth. I suppose with all of that behind him Little O isn’t going to get much choice…

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  27. A certain history teacher, who’s dead now and soon to be forgotten, almost obliterated any interest in history I might have had. I was glad to drop it when I could.
    Then about ten years after I’d left school, for some reason I can’t explain, I went into a library near the place I was working, and chose a book on English History and it turned me onto it. I bought my own copy eventually and think history is an interesting subject. I also decided there was a huge difference between a history teacher and a historian – an authority and the author of that book. This is sadly true of all school subjects and it is a lottery who we get to teach us, some good but a lot of mediocre ones.
    I really recommend self-education and self-improvement, once we finish school.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true, BF. I had an inspirational History teacher at school. Not an easy man to like, but he challenged us to learn for ourselves, outside the syllabus. He made us think, instead of just writing lists of dates on the board, and he expected us to want to learn too. A less interested teacher may well have had the opposite effect, so it is good to hear that you went on to explore the subject for yourself.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. I’m afraid not many of our world leaders ever do learn from history, despite presumably being taught it is school.
    I feel the same about people who say they are not interested in politics, not realising it affects every aspect of their lives from the wages they earn (or don’t) to the very air they breathe.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I have a little different “take” on the study of “History” (as it were) because my thinking is rarely mainstream. So for those of you who are interested in alternate views, here is my own: I am not infatuated with History because the things that happened back there, back then, are completed, dead issues, gone and buried in the realm of imagination, memory, and Literature. The things that happened back then cannot harm me today in the time in which I am living and they certainly cannot do anything to actively contribute to my well-being or my goals and ambitions. The past is past and shall never rise again. As said in the Christian Scriptures, “Let the dead bury their dead.”

    Now that I have said that let me address “The Future”

    The future is promised to no one and may never occur. We can hope, dream and plan, but the future is not a certainty — it is a gamble that we seem to have been winning from day to day — but the winning streak’s continuation is not assured either. The Future has not yet arrived and we cannot live in it until it gets here if ever it does get here.

    Which leaves us with what kind of pragmatic outlook that we can latch onto and depend on?

    I contend that the only time we have in which to live and to be and to make the choices that will affect our lives is the ever-present period of time known as “Now.” “Now” is always and unfailingly the only period of time that has any significance or relevance to our daily lives at all. The ever-present “Now” is always with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, John. I don’t think you can ignore that history impacts everything that is happening to you in the ‘now’. The Korean War still impacts on daily negotiations for your President. The western interference in Arabia and the Middle East is why there are terror attacks every day, and even your personal history is what makes you ‘you’, as you write your blog.
      But feel free to have an opposite opinion, as that is always of interest to me too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your open mindedness. It is refreshing. As to the cause of terrorism in the world being …. “The western interference in Arabia and the Middle East is why there are terror attacks every day …. I would differ and say that the terrorism is part and parcel of the Radical Islamic agenda of world conquest and would have occurred regardless of any western entrance into the considerations of the issues.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. History is about as useful as a room filled with dust-covered bones in a graveyard museum. But if people are happy saturating their minds with it then more power to them. But to my way of thinking it is a consummate waste of time and if you are unlucky enough to get a Liberal revisionist professor in your History college class, it becomes even more useless than before.

        Liked by 1 person

  30. Great post Pete, so proud of my daughter, degree in history, now teaches history to secondary school children, and was amazed when she studied that I had books on my shelf she needed.

    Liked by 1 person

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