Our History Matters – AnatoliRochill, Asst. Professor, Dept. of History

Today we celebrate the final day of the Hornbill Festival 2014. The 10 day long festival is a significant reminder of the history that has shaped our land and our people, telling us and the world that our past cannot be forgotten. History, is an important part of our lives, whether it pertains to an individual, a society or a country. It is not just a textbook or a subject that we have been made to study, but a truth that helps us understand the way towards creating a betterfuture for ourselves. 

Our History Matters

Does history matter? If it does, then what is history? History simply means study of the past that is significant and true. It is derived from the Greek word ‘Historia’ meaning ‘enquiry’ or ‘knowledge acquired by investigation’.Francis Bacon used the term Historia in the late 16th century when he wrote about ‘Natural History’. The word history first entered the English Language in the year 1390. History is a continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, person, etc. which took place in the history of mankind It includes an account of the rise and fall of a nation as well as of other great changes which have affected the political, social, religious, cultural and economic conditions of the human race. According to G K Chesterton, ‘History is a hill or a high point of vantage, from which alone men see the town in which they live or the age in which they are’. Charles Johnson has rightly said that, ’you can’t escape history, or the needs and neuroses you’ve picked up like layers and layers on your teeth’.

Herodotus, a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century was known as the ‘Father of History’. He was born on 1484 BC at Halicarnassus in Turkey and died at the age of 59 years in 1425 BC. He was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically and critically, and then to arrange them into ahistoriographical narrative. Historiography is a study of historical writings. It refers to both the studies of the methodology of historians and the development of history as a discipline, and also to a body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers how historians have studied that topic using particular sources, techniques, and theoretical approaches.The book called ‘The Histories’ was his masterpiece and the only work he is known to have produced. He helped form the foundation for the modern study of human history.
History is divided into three periods or ages namely: ancient, medieval and modern. We study the culture, religion, polity, socio, etc. of the various periods and how it developed over the passage of time.  During the ancient period, people wandered from place to place in search of food. They were unaware of the use of metals; had no idea of civilisation and probably did not know how to produce fire. Their implements were of rough stones, mainly of quartzite. They lived on the fruit of trees and wild animals. In the later period they started to cultivate land, domesticate animals, built houses; they buried or burnt their dead bodies, used skins of animals as clothes and learned to cook their food. People of this age started to live a settled live which results in the rise of towns and cities and development of trade and commerce which also marked the beginning of the medieval period. During this period, there was proper town planning and people were engaged in internal (trade within the country) and external trade (outside the country) practices. With the advancement of science and technology the modern era began.
Ancient influences have helped spawn variant interpretations of the nature of history which have evolved over the centuries and continue to change today. The modern study of history is wide-ranging and includes the study of certain topical or thematic elements of historical investigation. The people of the past are those who came before us and it is interesting to see how some of the thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and practices of today can differ so drastically from those throughout history. Ancient cultures devoted much time and effort to teaching their children family history for they thought that the past will help the child to understand who they really are. However, modern society has turned its back on the past.We prefer to define ourselves in terms of where we are going and not where we come from. Our ignorance of the past is not the result of lack of information but of indifference.
We no longer believe that history matters but I should say that history does matter as there is a sayinghe who controls the past controls the future. Allen Nerins has rightly defined history as, ‘a bridge connecting the past with the present and pointing the road to future’. In life, we face situations where we have to make crucial decisions.It is the past knowledge that is going to help us make the right choice. For instance, when we go to visit a doctor for any kind of sickness, before beginning with the session we are asked to fill out an information sheet of our medical history. Some of these forms are so detailed, asking questions that require information from rarely accessed memory banks. Why are we asked such a question? It will help the doctor to understand the accurate picture of our health. Our health is heavily influenced by the past like heredity, past behaviour, and past experiences, etc. If our history were not that important then we will not be questioned, but we are, and this is why we need to give importance to our past to tell us how we should move ahead into the future.
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: admin@tetsocollege.org”. 

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