What is History Nowadays
History is a wide conception related to the past events. We can determine it in different ways. However, every definition is correct and worth consideration. The importance of history is in the analysis of the events and independent conclusions in spite of the sources we work with. The aims of this work are to show the subjectivity of historical analysis and the importance of considering history as the amount of events without fallacious explanation.
History as a science and history as a set of events can be established by few aspects. Historians provide different definitions of history. It is a study about human past; it is a narration of events and their interconnections. We can also consider history as an analysis of some important events in the past that affected the future. History is a science of human beings and civilizations. All these definitions are correct because we should consider history as a wide area to study and explore.
Zinn pointed on the Kissinger’s definition “History is the memory of states” (Zinn 9). However, he criticized this statement as too restricted. If we accept this definition, we would talk about diverse and sometimes antipode attitude to the same event presented by different cultures or countries. Especially, it is obvious during the time of wars for conquerors and conquered. Moreover, reading books on history promotes better understanding of the differences in historical analysis represented by various historians. Therefore, Kissinger’s definition of history is unacceptable. Thus, we should consider history as a set of knowledge about the past produced by historians together with research work and teaching about that knowledge. “History can be imagined as a pyramid,” wrote Charles V. Willie in the introduction to Loewen’s book Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. The book presents the pyramid of events, their analysis and previous research with present rules and beliefs on its top.
History is a message to the future generations. By learning about the causes and effects of events in history, people can learn better ways to deal with the conflicts among nations and individuals nowadays. According to the spiral theory of history, all the events are repeated in various transformations. Consequently, the accurate analysis of historical facts can allow predicting some adverse events in the present or the future. Thus, we understand the importance of studying history. It is relevant to the intellectual growth and development of an individual. Moreover, studying the events of the past gives us an understanding of how the world came to be not only in close environment but around the world including all cultures, nations as well as nature. Although human behavior is unforeseeable at times, a better understanding of the events through the study of history can provide valuable perception for our future generations.
Of course, if history has this vital importance for society nowadays, then it must be as accurate as possible. Our knowledge of history must be based on evidence, logical thought, and approved facts, but not on specious theory provided by paid historians or political ideologists. The accuracy of the information and the sources should be the main priority in the historical study. Reading the books by Zinn and Loewen helped me to understand the importance of studying “other side” of the history. The way Zinn presented the history of Columbus shows this historical figure not only as a great explorer, but as a greedy and cruel representative of Europeans of that period. At the same time, Loewen in his book shows Columbus as an ordinary person, one who “stole all he could see” (23). Zinn opens the history from the perspective of Native Americans, those who met Columbus but were conquered and imprisoned. Loewen also dispenses the conflict and drama of Native Americans in the past and its connection with the current-day issues. Unfortunately, even today the destruction of the Native Americans’ nation is not considered to be genocide. New expeditions to Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries caused the deaths of 250,000 Indians on Haiti and over 600 000 on the continent. Europeans brought not only glass beads and hawks’ bells but diseases that took lives of hundreds Indians. But the leading contribution into the extirpation of Native Americans made Europeans themselves; their cruelty dazes. They took Indians as slaves, gave them impossible tasks, and hunted them with dogs for task failed. When they took prisoners, they hanged them or burned to death. “Indians found without a copper token [given for the gold fee] had their hands cut off and bled to death” (Zinn 5). Mass suicides began among Indians. “Infants were killed to save them from the Spaniards” (Zinn 5). Pilgrims occupied the territories where Indians had lived. They left them a poor possibility to survive. Puritans killed hundreds of Native Americans appealing to the Bible and trying to convert them to Christianity. However, all these facts are not presented in most of history books. Our knowledge about Columbus is limited and controlled. The distortion of the history in such a way “is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves- unwittingly-to justify what was done” (Zinn 9). Suppression of some facts and ascension of others is a great damage made by the textbooks. Skipping out the “bad parts” cannot help us to understand the whole history. DuBois’ “bad parts” do not exist. The same event can be considered positive from one side and negative from the other. There is no need to evaluate the events, but there is a great possibility to predict horrible mistakes.
At its very core, history should be a scholarly discipline based on independent analysis of the evidence. It is crucial to study history because we can find the answer to how this world came to be. However, one must be conscious of the methods and leading principles of that discipline. The constant attention should be paid to what is taught and how it is done. We must prudentially listen to what the textbook are telling us and what they are riot telling us (Loewen 30). Finally, for sure, we cannot skip facts but should accept them as they are. Only this way of studying history can help us to understand the importance of the past for the future.
Loewen, James. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York: The New Press, 1995. Print
Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States. New York: HarperCollins, 2009. Print.