What are some reasons people study history?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In my view, there are three main reasons why people study history (outside of being forced to by the requirements at their school).

  1. It is interesting to learn about how other people lived.  We humans only get to live one life on Earth.  When we study history, we get to learn about how other people lived at other places and times.  This is not as good as getting to live multiple lives, but it is very interesting and it is as close as we can get to living in different times and places.
  2. It is interesting to know how our country and our world came to be as they are.  To many people, it is not enough to simply accept that things are the way they are.  People want to know why things are the way they are.  History helps us understand how our country and our world got this way.  Knowing this is interesting and it enriches our lives.
  3. By studying history, we can hope to learn lessons for the present and the future.  History holds the sum of human experience.  We can look at other people’s experiences and try to apply them to our own times.  For example, we can look at Prohibition and ask if it tells us anything about whether marijuana should be legalized.  We can look at Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan and ask if would make sense for us to get involved in the war in Syria.  We can look at past waves of immigration to the US and ask if they can tell us what impact the current levels of immigration will have on our country.

All of these are reasons why some people would choose to study history.

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