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Uses and Abuses of History - Margaret Macmillan

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  • Essay length: 802 words
  • Submitted: 30/11/2008
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International Baccalaureate History

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Does history have a use beyond understanding the past? According to Margaret MacMillan, history enables humans to understand each other and to prevent the repetition of past mistakes. However, the value of history is limited to the accuracy of its interpretation. Although history is often a guide and friend, it can be harmful if used improperly, which is why MacMillan's book is appropriately entitled The Uses and Abuses of History.

History is valuable because it allows humans to understand each other. For example, the Cold War (1946-1992) was dangerous because neither side understood the other. The Americans believed the Soviets wanted world domination when their motives were traditional Russian ones, dictated by their history of being invaded repeatedly (156). The Communists assumed that capitalist countries would attack them, even though western intervention was supported half-heartedly by politicians like Winston Churchill1, who had little appetite for conflict by the end of the First World War (156, 158). Failure by both sides to understand the other's history resulted in an unnecessary confrontation. In addition, the Americans lost the costly Vietnam War because they overestimated the willpower of South Vietnam and underestimated the determination of North Vietnam (156). If they

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