What is this that we call history? What is it good for?
History is: a chronological record of significant events (such as those affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes, a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events, the study of the past, …, the past in context. History is all these things.
What is missing from ‘a chronological record of significant events’? History without context is meaningless. And context is? Context is all those things that were going on before and during those significant events; the environment of their occurrence, if you will; and the events that followed these significant events; their consequences.
A branch of knowledge that records and explains past events, the study of the past, … No doubt, those historians who recorded these events sought to provide us insight into what was going on at the time, and as to what had transpired before; provide us context. Successive historians were privy the consequences of these events; provide us evermore context for these events. The knowing of what was going on at the time of significant events and the consequences of these events allows us to assign cause and effect to these significant events of history. This assessment of cause and effect forms the basis of our knowledge of the past.
What good this knowledge of the past? Is it that we need be concerned about the possibility of history repeating itself? That’s not really possible, is it? This assessment is information or knowledge that we can use to increase or decrease the possibility of something similar happening in the future. Information or knowledge that also helps us understand what is happening at the present time, happening now. We need to know what is going on now in order to better plan for the future. Planning that applies the knowledge that we have gained from our study of history.
We can never undo history; that would be like reversing the big bang. We can use the knowledge gained from our study of the past to improve the present, to make the future better.