Ask Harley

Why study history?

At one time or another, most of us are required to study history, usually in high school and college. However, aside from the utilitarian reason that such activity allows you to graduate, there are many other reasons to study history.

We all like to think that we are masters of our fate, making decisions and choices that reflect our needs and our preferences. What few of us realize is that almost all of our culture — including our decisions and our choices — is determined by the past. Much of what we think, do and understand is a result of activities that happened years ago, sometimes hundreds of years ago.

When we study history, we learn much more than dates, names and facts. We learn to understand people who thought and acted differently than us. At the same time, we learn to appreciate the continuity of human society and human nature. Appreciating the past allows us to put our own times in perspective, and ultimately, leads to a better understanding of who we are, collectively and individually.

And that, as odd as if may sound, leads us to more personal freedom and the wisdom we need to lead happy, fulfilled lives.