George Santayana’s off-cited aphorism “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” suggests that the study of History is fundamentally didactic. As recent events have shown, the past continually repeats on itself: from insurgency and genocide, religious fanaticism and acts of terrorism are prevalent in our world, just as they were in the past. With that in mind, the study of History should not be regarded as a pathway to moral improvement. Rather, it can be understood as an essential tool to unpacking the increasingly complex contingencies of the past and the present. Understanding the how and the why of historical events – particularly their cause and effect – from slavery in the Ancient World to human trafficking today.
Why Study History?
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
In the 18th and 19th centuries, and even into the 20th, a knowledge of History was regarded as a clear mark of the educated and the well-bred. Being able to reel off dates and facts about the past was a sign of affluence and intellect, and promoted a person almost automatically into a high status in society. However, times have indeed changed. The modern economic market increasingly demands practical skills and views education as a means to a vocational end. Add that to the fact that tens of thousands of students graduate in History each year, and potential Historians might question the value of gaining a qualification in a subject on the principle of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Whilst it is true that memorising facts remains a component of the subject, the focus in schools and universities has decisively shifted towards a critical analysis and evaluation of the past, imbuing students with an incomparable understanding of our present and equipping them with the tools to shape a better future.
The past causes the present, and so the future
It’s been stated by many a wise man through the ages that history teaches us precautionary lessons that warn us not to repeat the same mistakes over again. Sometimes, fairly recent history will suffice to explain a major turn in events, but often we need to look further back to identify the rudimentary causes of change or unrest. Only through studying history can we grasp this change; and only through history can we identify and understand the elements of a system or society that persist despite change. In this way history is reconnaissance. We can’t know how to act wisely in any part of the world, whether in war or peace, unless we understand its culture and history. Even if you drop anchor on the shores of an unpopulated island, it might be useful to know what happened to the last group of humans to do the same.
History is democracy
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
From the destruction of the Library of Baghdad, to the burning of books and burying of scholars under China’s Qin Dynasty, or the abolition of Aztec codices by Itzcoatl, oppressive regimes and dictatorships have been wiping clean the pages of history for centuries as a means of mass control. Studying history gives power to the people and give them a voice of informed opposition against leaders who wish to brainwash and control. History also shows us the heroes from the past and provides lessons in courage, diligence, or constructive protest.
Careers in History
Gaining a qualification in History, whether at school or university level, is an academically rigorous and demanding feat. Employers recognise this, as well as the following valuable skills gained:
- The ability to research and assess e History requires many hours in the library extracting relevant information and processing large quantities of it. In fields such as law, journalism, research and government work, these skills are vital.
- Dealing with conflicting interpretations and sources of information. Similarly, skill is needed in order to sort fact from fiction and ensure sources are credible and reliable.
- Timekeeping and deadline management, as contact hours are few and self-motivation is necessary.
The study of history is therefore a good foundation for further study, teaching and academia, law, a career in politics or the media, business management and many more opportunities. In brief, the study of History covers all contexts and eras and offers a tapestry of human experience. It is a source-based subject which frequently poses more questions than it answers, stimulating lively debate and disagreement amongst scholars. To meet the challenges History can present to learners at every stage of development, we offer private tuition across all levels, from Key Stage 1 to A-Level and beyond, including undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Many of our tutors hold PhDs and other postgraduate qualifications in History, indicative both of their passion for, and expertise in, the subject.
If you’d like arrange private lessons or have any questions about our tuition services please call us on Tel: +44 (0) 207 665 6606 or you can send us an email via our contact form.
Useful History Resources:
http://royalhistsoc.org – Royal Historical Society
https://www.history.org.uk – Historical Association
https://www.hoddereducation.co.uk/ALevelHistory GCSE and A Level History Resources
http://www.balh.org.uk – British Association for Local History
http://www.thinkinghistory.co.uk/index.php Thinking History
http://www.pearsonschoolsandfecolleges.co.uk/Secondary/History/History.aspx Pearson A Level History Resources
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history – BBC History Learning resource
https://www.teachithistory.co.uk/ks5 AQA History resources
http://www.historytoday.com – Online collection of articles and journals
http://www.bl.uk/ British Library History Books and Resources
https://www.activehistory.co.uk Active history resources
https://schoolhistory.co.uk School History Notes
http://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/history/ AQA History resources
Guides to heritage and historical attractions in the UK:
http://www.history.ac.uk/publications/historical-research – Institue of Historical Research
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/historical-journal – Cambridge Historical journal – a collection of online resources
http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/series/history-faculty – Oxford University Podcasts from the History Faculty
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/ – Wiley Online Library
https://www.jstor.org/journal/historicalj – Jstor requires an account and contains a wealth of academic papers
http://www.history.com – American History resource
https://www.britishmuseum.org – British Museum site with events listings
https://www.visitengland.com/things-to-do/heritage UK Historical heritage
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/learn/ English heritage learning resources