What is History for?
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What is History for?

If you had the misfortune to do too much of
it at school, you’ll probably remember one thing about history: just how boring it can
be. You might harbour painful memories of the
100 Years War, the War of Spanish Succession, Crop Rotation in the Middle
Ages or – heaven forbid – the good deeds of Florence Nightingale. As a result, it wouldn’t be surprising if
– nowadays – you tended to steer well clear of the whole topic. But that would be a pity. The real reason
why history is so boring is that we’re not clear about what it should be for. Here’s the big reason why history matters:
it matters because it can provide us with solutions to many of the problems of the present. At its best, history is there to introduce
us to some of the things we need but that aren’t sufficiently visible in the world
today. As a society, we’re very obsessed by what
we’re up to right now. Unknowingly, we’re hugely biased towards
the present. The news – which is about the most prestigious force in the world today
– circles obsessively around some of the things that have happened in the last five minutes and yet, many of the most important things
that we need to nourish, sustain and inspire us are a lot
older. What we nowadays need above all else are GOOD IDEAS and history is full of them. Imagine you’re dissatisfied with aspects of contemporary Capitalism. It might help hugely to read about the HISTORY of the Levellers, a group
of English radicals writing and acting between 1645 and 1650.
Or if you question what the point of going on holiday is, you might dramatically enrich
your thoughts by considering the HISTORY of pilgrimage, especially the
motives which people had for trekking off to visit distant shrines. History teaches us that THINGS CAN CHANGE. People haven’t always been as they are now: materialistic
and work obsessed. unable to build nice architecture, over-concered with being “connected” or hung up on being absurdly thin There’s an annoying saying that goes: THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT. But that’s suggesting the only thing
history is full of is mistakes. Yet it’s as fair to say, those who don’t know history won’t be able to IMPROVE the present. History can also teach us COURAGE. It’s
easy to feel, when you’re pressed up against the present, that things are exceptionally
awful right now but they rarely are, once you open the lens wide enough. The present isn’t unusual in its levels of mediocrity and compromise. Once you read the letters, the old guys were just as bad. And though our challenges are of course great, they aren’t exceptional
– when compared with say, those facing the survivors of the sack of Rome or
the Lisbon earthquake. History ends up as a tool for the APPRECIATION
of some of our advantages which is easy to miss. It can teach us to judge our society
against other societies rather than against our ideals. Of course the European Union has problems, but the Habsburg Empire had them too and many more. Our governments are
deeply imperfect, but there have been worse. Traffic is terrible, but so was
the siege of Leningrad. History can console. Getting clearer about what history is for
should change how the subject is taught. In the future, we should treat history a little
like a doctor treats a medicine cabinet. Before diving into history, we’d first have
to work out what was wrong with us, what we were lacking in the here and now. We be might
diagnosed for a lack of courage, or a spoilt nature or a hesitation about whether to marry.
And we should be prescribed history accordingly For their part, historians themselves should
get clearer about what problems in the present they’re trying to solve. They should explicitly
aim to tell us things about the past that can help us with issues of today. Not the
past for its sake, but the past for our sakes. Good history should always mean: history with
solutions or consolations for today. Now that could be interesting…

100 thoughts on “What is History for?

  1. I think history is for understanding what humanity is at its core and to understand how did we get to be as we are now

  2. Quite helpful…. I love to study and read history but…. yes it really becomes impossible at times to make it interesting for students.

  3. History is the oldest Subject in the Universe along With Time(Mathematics).It predates our Planet's existenct.History of Human Evolution is the story of wars of History and Mathematics(or its Predecessor,TIME) as both were the earliest part of Human Being

  4. हम दोस्ती निभाना जानते है ,
    ज़ख्म कितने भी गहरे हो दवा लगाना जानते है ,
    हमें भूलने की कोशिश भी ना करना ऐ दोस्त
    हम गला दबाना भी जानते है

  5. And like any other school discipline (even the scientific ones), history must be considered as a library containing archives and always able to receive new information or analyse it proper contents. When someone begin to refuse changes or evolutions of appreciation of the history, he could become conservative and forget what is history really for.

  6. I just made a presentation about the history of plumbing and used this video as my introduction and everyone loved the video and the history lesson. Thanks! History does have a lot to teach us.

  7. when you have been watching the school of life for years and then your actual college sends u here lmao good to know ive been utilizing good sources and information love all your work

  8. History is seen as boring for 2 main reasons 1. The way it is often taught and 2. because people do not bring their imagination to the subject. If you can try and imagine the people, places and events involved it is almost always fascinating. While I can see the point being made in this video I don't think selectively teaching history just to address contemporary problems and issues is a correct approach. In order to understand the state of the world we live in, the basics of world history should be required learning for all children (and adults) everywhere. History has much to teach us about human nature and how both individuals and groups tend to behave. It has much to teach us about politics, ideology, culture, religion, philosophy, art and literature. Indeed so much of the study of any of the arts or humanities or indeed sciences is in itself a historical study. History is not a vast list of events and dates but the whole story of how we came to be where we are today. As each day passes history grows – it is a living thing not some dusty cupboard of the past. Right now we are living in the fascinating post-Cold War information age and globalisation era where Islamic extremism has replaced communism as the presented public enemy, where gross inequality and capitalist and consumer abuse of the environment are the real enemies and where migration and climate change are burning issues while all things digital and internet related are transforming lives and where genetic engineering and artificial intelligence are in their infancy. Are these things boring? Certainly not. Are they history? Partially yes and the process continues daily.

  9. Why history sucks:
    1: It’s not really important that much now
    2: We write essays and stuff
    3: We need more FUN games and stuff, not highlight this and write an essay about this.

    Sad fact: My WHOLE class likes history, I hate my teacher too.

  10. The problem with this is that those involved in "history", that is teaching it or studying it at university, will feel that their lifes have no longer meaning. Because they, absurdly, think of history as an end, rather than as a tool. Therefore their lifes have no longer meaning and they won't be able to understand and therefore will keep throwing up meaningless information throught their dirty mouths. But ironicly this gives a certain meaning to their lifes.

  11. In other words and summarizing. History is based on comparison. To compare our epoch with the past in order to understand our present lifes better. That is the main objective of comparisons. But all those brainless historians, who even have the shameless courage to call themselves "historians", studying history for the matter of studying it are the only ones who, ironicly, destroy history and make it an absurd subject.

  12. These concepts are too inteligent and deep for being introduced and asimilated in high school or whatever it is. History can be useful of course, but studying it and memorizing it is ridiculous and absurd, that is, doing exams. History is something to be understood, not superficial details about the past. Like for example, how a country was created or the industrial revolution in a particular country. History is a tool, not an end. We have history to understand things and the present, yes. History is a tool and what we get from the history is a general idea, not focusing on tiny and superficial details without any trascendence. We use history to understand the present, but for that matter, we need a certain attitude which goes beyond memorizing meaningless information which in the end remains ALWAYS in a general idea of what we read and "study".

  13. I never paid much attention to history at school because what they were teaching us was completely wrong only had to look at a textbook to work that out

  14. I come here to learn how to understand history? With a rational and reasonable interpretation to understand the world where I live and how it become as it is now.

  15. For that last bit about historians, I think they are studying and writing history for the present. Today's text about the Greeks are different then from 30 years ago. History is written taking consideration of present problems, influence and opinions. Teaching history is different

  16. My problem with history class is that we learn the same thing every year, like about slavery and the holocaust. I’m so burned out of those topics they seem like a dime a dozen to me. I’m not hating on these events, I just see the point of learning them anymore.

  17. Unfortunately thought history is not just listen to a story and think about it,it's learn it word by word and take 100 tests on it.

  18. History isn't just about diggin through the wasted to pull up solutions to some issue. Havan expansive knowledge of history and its content is important not because it gives us a good views of the past. But because it completes our view of the present just like hpw a seat is useless without its frame.

  19. You can seek knowledge on history of ancient civilisation from the guidance of the Quran. Lost perished nations like Petra, Pompeii & giants that built homes in the mountains. 😊

  20. The present day looks like paradise if you take a look at the past as early as 100 years ago. And it only got worse if you look at the middle ages.
    World peace, education, lack of poverty and overall happiness is probably the best it's ever been for human beings ever , so to those nay-sayers who focus on our world's negativity: take a dive into the time before you and tell me how much better those days were.

  21. My years of being taught history were between 1972 and 1981 at two very different schools,a traditional old junior mixed and a progressive boarding mixed secondary that had day pupils as well. I don't know if it's taught this way now but in each school we were taken on a long,broad chronological sweep through the ages. We started right at the beginning with the stone,iron and bronze ages at the first school and our 4 years there ended up with the start of aviation and motor cars and the First World War. We dotted back and forth a bit,as events and different things link to each other and shape what has gone since and what is now,but I remember us going from the Romans to the entire Middle Ages in the second year,the Tudors and Stuarts to the early 19th Century in the third. At secondary school we went all the way back to the Norman Conquest and over the next 5 years trundled forward in time again,culminating before the O Level exams with Attlee's post-War government,the East-West division of Europe and life in the Soviet Union. I was sufficiently enthused in the subject to read swathes of our books out of hours at times,being introduced that way to,among other things,Nehru,Gandhi and Apartheid in South Africa for the first time and learning more about 60s events like JFK and Kruschev and his denunciation of Stalin.

  22. History is very important especially if things do not go well in the society like feminism, racism etc. If no one understands why things are happening like a protest and so on we would not understand when or where it started and why it is still an issue for the society as an example. We need to appreciate history so that like social issues and others can be resolved or does not repeat again from the dark past.

  23. "It can teach us to judge our societies against other societites rather than our ideals
    Introduce us to the things we need that may not be visible to us
    Things can change people havent been as we are now
    Teach us courage. The present isn't unusualin its levels of mediocrity and compromise
    Tool to teach aprecciation of some of our advantages."
    I'm using this for my essay thanks

  24. History was one of my favorite subjects from grade school to college. My greatest lesson from studying history is learning our mistakes.

  25. History boring? What? Its the most interesting subject there is! It’s so much more interesting than Algebra. I love the stuff that happens in the past.

  26. In the toxic and mad academic world where work is seen for the sake of work and duty theres absolutely no will to do such a thing. They will keep teaching history for the sake of teaching it and creating artificial work out of it, that is: memorizing and studying meaningless information.

  27. Personally I love history , but a school I likely had more historical knowledge than the teachers themselves. All they want to teach was generalised history dates,events, why the events happened . The never talk about the actually people and there life’s that lead them to our history books . There are so many lesson that can be learnt from history . Literally where I live there a lot of sectarianism and people don’t have a clue why they hate the other side , it’s just hatred passed from parent to child and if they would pick up a history book and learn where the came from and why the divides happen they would realise that it’s pointless to hate a people or cultural for something that happen hundreds of years ago .

  28. I am so glad I watched this video!! It has given me a new found respect for history. Acquiring knowledge from our past, our learning experiences and what became of them, ,allows us to resolve issues currently unfolding. We just need to reflect on ideas that were generating relevantly during respectable times in our past, and consider the outcomes those ideas or decisions had.

  29. I don't like history …because my teacher says memorize THESE and I can't even memorize 2 pages …and I got F I'm school

    Edit: and her voice is soo fast

  30. We are at the beginning of a new era of modernization of the Internet. Kind of like at the early 1900's from horse to cars…the introduction to modernization..from no electricity to new technology. This is a new modernization to our world. The new technologic advancement. Cyber optics, automation , stem cell research ,etc. modernizing in vaccines as well. Its quite fascinating really.

  31. If a student has a fascination for history then they should have an elective. Students shouldn't be graded for something boring and pointless in life. Students shouldn't get an F for not knowing what year a certain event happen at.

  32. History is for messing up your brain with useless facts that won’t help you in life and then memorizing all that information for the test

  33. Im pretty sure our country teach history a bit differently because.. its not in english but in our language.
    For some reason i dont really like my own country and language, yea im sorry but i just cant help feel that way. Our language sounds more rough to me compare to other language. 😕 i want to learn history in english.. thought maybe i can understand better without having to repeat what they said 100 times

  34. It is dangerously naive to want to functionalize a subject and make it dependent on the value we consciously derive of it today. How do we know? I think history should be studied for its own sake, by people who are curious and want to "escape" the present. There is nothing wrong with that and who knows – their work can help future generations.
    As a philosopher (a real one, I wrote a phd) I admire mr. de Botton's project, but it remains important to be critical about the claims he makes. I am trying to get in touch with the man to reintroduce that essential philosophical attitude of self-criticism.

  35. Learning History had never been boring for me, it was simply enjoyable to learn the past of my country and other countries such as learning about how they are formed and how their past made them to be what they are today, I prefer Ancient history though, it gives me a feel around a country on how they lived before Christ or just simply in the ancient times, ancient history gives me the origins of a country, a civilization or the origin of a modern word. I like learning about Greek myths or basically any myth, it gives you how the old civilization believed things as it is. And don't get me started on the Punic Wars and how Hannibal crossed the alps-

    Anyways, it's such a shame that students nowadays aren't interested in history whatsoever and are focused on their future and won't pay attention the important lessons that history gave them. It would've been better if they both focused on their future and pay attention to the history so they won't commit the same mistakes their predecessors did. And if they had not known about history, they wouldn't know who to thank for the modern day objects or gadgets, they wouldn't know how to learn from mistakes in the past and they would live their lives not knowing what the past was like.

    I love history but I'm still a teen that only knows little of it but I can tell that it is really fun to learn about and I can tell that it is important to our lives. I just pray that even though I'm old I will still love history like I do today. I try to teach my friend about history but they won't pay attention only few of them do.

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