I have a dear friend who once told me she isn't interested in history, because it is irrelevant. My jaw pretty much hit the floor and bounced. My feeling has been (at least, since I realized how important history is) that to understand current events, one must understand history. There's more, but I'd rather hear what other people in the community have to say.

How would you convince people of the importance of history?

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I think giving specific examples of how some of the current/recent wars/conflicts really started hundreds of years ago. An example that springs to my mind (since my most recent history classes were Celtic history and Western Civilizations), is the Catholic/Protestant fighting in Northern Ireland. That is mostly over now (I won't consider it over at least until we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the cease-fire), but the start of it was hundreds of years ago. Another good one is the Israel/Palestine fighting, also hundreds of years old. To know why they are fighting now, you have to know what started it all. With these 2 examples, at the same time you would be giving them a lesson on why politics and religion should not mix.

I tend to be more interested in what life was like for the people, than what the politicians were doing, so I find traditional history classes and books rather boring. I had 2 good history teachers in all my years of school, one in 7th grade, one in college. They both made a point of showing how what was going on affected the people. In 7th grade we studied life in feudal Japan and in India under the caste system. We were assigned roles for a week and had to act them out and made things that they would have used. At the end of the India unit we were all reincarnated (I came back as the best thing to come back as - a Brahman [sp?]). In Celtic history and western civ in college, the prof would make up stories, usually involving 2 guys and a dachshund, to illustrate what was going on for the people as a result of the political goings on. So that is another thing, make it about the people.

Then there is the whole "history repeats itself" thing...
The English/Irish conflict involves much more than religion. It could be because during the 16 hundreds the English killed 500,000 of the Irish and sold another 300,000 into slavery in the American and Australian colonies. They were euphemistically call indentured servants - but it was slavery in all it's real horror.
I wrote a blog in the 4 Score group about the forgotten slaves.
This is a great little book that I picked up on Saturday. It speaks directly to your topic.

Excerpted from the review:

MacMillan has obvious zeal for the disabusing power of history. History well told, she writes, “should challenge and expose national myths” and teach “humility, skepticism, and awareness of ourselves.” This leaves her often in the position of saying no. Professional historians, in her view, are the adults at the party, the voices exposing what she calls “Lost Golden Ages” as pure chimera. (If MacMillan studied families instead of nations, she’d be the one to tell you your father was a cheat, but that you should love him anyway.)

You need to know history so you're not always blowing smoke out your ass. This applies to atheists, too, beginning with Sam Harris.
You need to know history so you're not always blowing smoke out your ass. This applies to atheists, too, beginning with Sam Harris.

Ralph, why hold back?

If you dislike Sam Harris, you should freely express that. At every opportunity.
History is more relevant than ever considering current events and politics. The fear mongering, name calling, and incorrect rhetoric coming from all sorts of crazy people distorting the past and present truth these days.

All these idiots talking about socialism and Nazism have obviously never learned anything about that most recent chapter in our history or they would know what national socialism is, how it came about, and how the social democrats were the most opposed to it...disgustingly ironic that conservatives of the past went along with national socialism and conservatives of today think anything that disagrees with them is national socialism...talk about not understanding the importance of history.

Speaking of history, History International Channel has really gone down the drain. They were showing "UFO's of the Bible" the other night, sad times indeed...
History International Channel has really gone down the drain. They were showing "UFO's of the Bible" the other night, sad times indeed...

Which is akin to discussing the aerodynamics of the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz., although that might be more relevant than UFO's of the Bible.

Thank you for this thread! I think that this is a great challenge from your friend.


Understanding history is critical for anyone who wishes to grasp a larger view of the world around them. To understand the human journey we need to know what people have done before us. The present reality we find ourselves in is built on the tapestry of all that came before it. What is realy thrilling, is to combine the social and natural sciences together to really start to build a vibrant framework of what has happened, is happening, and might happen.




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