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History as a way of understanding the Present

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The study of History is a way of understanding the Present At first glance, this statement might seem rather odd. Its paradoxical nature makes it seem almost like nonsense at first. History is generally considered the study of the past. It is seen as the analysis and developed understanding of past events and figures and not something related to our present. However, in reality, history is much more than just a mere study of the past. The importance of history lies much more in the way it opens up the present. As R.G. Collingwood once said, "the value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is". History is a key element in understanding not only who we were but more importantly, who we are now and how we came to be this way. This essay will discuss history as a way of knowing and explore the idea of the study of History being a way of understanding the present. ...read more.


This study is the perfect example of history teaching us who we are and why we are this particular way. According to Collingwood, "knowing yourself means knowing what you can do [...] the only clue to what man can do is what man has done". He argues that in order for us to know what we are capable of as human beings we have to look into our history. Our past will teach us what we are capable of because it shows us what we have been capable of before. This idea is regarding both the positive and negative capabilities of man. History shows all the amazing things humans can do ranging from the construction of the pyramids to the creation of renaissance art to the discovery of antibiotics. However, it also shows what great evils man is capable of such as the Holocaust and the enslavement of Africans. The study of history can therefore reveal what human beings now can do. ...read more.


History is obviously one of the most important and consequential ways of knowing. It might seem like a dead or boring subject as it is often thought of as the simple memorizing of dates, battles and important figures. In reality, it is much more than that. It is the key element to understanding our present and defining our future. It is vital to our understanding of who we are as human beings and what it means to be a human being in our present day world. We are our history and our past and without it, we are reduced to nothing. Even though we know far from everything and what we know is nothing more but an interpretation of a recreated past in our minds, it is still vital to who we are. "History is the intellectual form in which a civilization renders account to itself of its past", the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga said. He managed to capture the essence of the importance of history. It is our way of defining who we are and who we will be by who we were. ...read more.

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