Student Question

How can literature shape or influence history?

Expert Answers

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This is a great question. It might seem that literature is not powerful. Therefore, to imagine a book or a work of art can influence history seems like a stretch of the imagination. But if we look at the world today, we can say that literature has shaped the world. In fact, we can cogently argue that literature has, indeed, changed the world. 

The most obvious place to look to defend this point is religion. The three great religions of the world are religions of the book - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These books have undoubtedly shaped history in more ways than we can imagine. 

Another book that influenced the world is the Roman law codes. Modern law in most of the world is an outflow of Roman law. Hence, our very legal system and reasoning came from a book that was codified 1500 years ago. 

When we add other forms of literature into the mix, we can say that they also changed our world. Think of Greek tragedies, economic works, such as The Wealth of Nations, Shakespeare, and so many other authors. 

In the end, literature influences history, because people read it. When people change, the world does as well. 

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