History is important to us because it tells us something about today’s world and how it came about. Besides that, it’s pretty damn interesting and fulfills some ancient human needs. The big question about history is in public and in various discussions.
Can we learn from history?
The most debated topic is whether we can learn from history. That’s really a good question! History is important as much as education is important. Because all the knowledge and all the exciting stories would have precious little value if we could not implement any of it. Unfortunately, things don’t look particularly good at the front … History has taught us that we are not very good at learning from it.
For example, learning about the worst prisons in the world. Have we learned from it? Another more concrete example is the Great Depression of 1929. We have experienced two similar financial crises in the last twenty years. Greece has been bankrupt every couple of decades for the past 200 years. An effective remedy for this has obviously not yet been found.
Populist politicians with implausible promises were elected by overwhelming majorities from Europe to Latin America in the 20th century and failed spectacularly everywhere. Even so, Donald Trump is President of the United States and Boris Johnson is British Prime Minister. You almost have to say that Mankind has obviously not gotten any wiser over the past few hundred years. Rather, it seems that humanity has grown stupid, and apparently we have learned absolutely nothing.
But still, not everything is bad. For liberal-minded people, Brexit or Donald Trump’s presidency may be a disaster of historic proportions. But at least it’s nice to see that there were similar disasters in the past. And we’re still alive! At second glance, some things have even improved. Sure, we have to deal with all sorts of stupid political events today, the young people only see the world through their smartphone screens, the car companies lie to us and everything is going down the drain.
But remember: In 1929 there was the global economic crisis that set the western world back decades ago and led to political extremism in Europe on a whole new scale. Crises still do that today, If Greece went bankrupt in the 19th century, it meant famine and certain death for many Greeks. Today they emigrate to Ireland and work in a pub. The examples could go on for a long time.
And that’s why we are concerned with the past
That brings us to the heart of the matter. We are not engaged in history to magically predict the future or to find a panacea for the problems of our time. We do it to create a new perspective on the here and now.
For example, history apparently teaches us that there have been economic crises since the emergence of the market economy system. From this, we conclude that there will be some again in the future. However, we still do not know for a long time when exactly this will be the case next. But when the time comes, it is precisely the past experience that can be a yardstick for us.
History helps us to classify the events, it gives us comparisons and we can at least draw different solutions from the past and evaluate their advantages and disadvantages.
History can also be exciting, funny, and entertaining
So the story rhymes. That is also good news for now. Everyone loves a good rhyme, just as everyone loves a good story! Unfortunately, the history of science has done it with flying colors over the last few decades to scare people away, and history lessons could not keep the enthusiasm of many students for the subject alive.
A gaping gap has opened.
In the science of history, research continues, some breathtaking and exciting findings are disclosed, but little of it is received by the public. Instead, the room is filled with half-hearted TV documentaries and YouTube videos of varying quality. That’s indicative. Because the enthusiasm for history is still there in public! Otherwise, these offers wouldn’t exist. It is not without reason that historical novels have been one of the best-selling literary genres for years, and it is not entirely by chance that historically influenced stories such as “Game of Thrones” have become stories of an entire generation.
But it is also clear why the “old” science cannot stink.
Why should anyone want to have the world explained to them by an old professor who seems to have got stuck intellectually in the 1960s and fashionably in the early 19th century … But there must be a middle ground between the often dry science and the gimmicky TV story, which only seems to know the Second World War and the Vikings as themes.
You can tell history in a well-founded and critical way and still entertain! The past can be reproduced in an easily consumable manner without having to forego important details and cross-references.