HISTORY. A Waste Of Time Or A Guide?


History is perceived differently by many people depending on their understanding and interpretation of historical events. The many misconceptions about history have scared away many young people from reading history at the higher institutions. For the purpose of this work, let us not only go into history as a subject of study but also our individual past activities. There is an interesting argument from one school of thought who suggest that, What has happened had already happened. There is no need visiting the past. Let us rather focus on the future. This had convinced many such as Henry Ford to say “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today”. Another school of thought argues that well, if we do not know where we are going, it is at least comforting to know where we have come from. George Orwell also wrote, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

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From whichever angle it is looked at, our history (past) remains one of the most essential tools to the development of every society and country because it provides a practical guide to solving societal problems. The only way of knowing the importance, purpose and use of a thing is to know how it started, thus, when it was made and why it was made. The answer is found in the process of enquiring into the past of that theory or item which gives us a better understanding of how it came about and how best we could apply them. To say a little about the academic aspect, it  must be noted that history does not only help individuals to develop their reading and writing skills, it even goes beyond the provision to wider knowledge on issues to equip the individuals with analytical skills. Every subject has some amount of history attached to it which makes history very important to the understanding of concepts and the development of theories. Aristotle once wrote, “if you want to understand anything, observe its beginning and its development”.

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You will also agree to the fact that reflection is very important for every individual and society to know how far it has come and the next step to take, thereby making history not only an important discipline to learn about the past but also as a guide for the future.

History goes beyond the memorisation of dates and events which undoubtedly are very significant in history. The date gives confirmation of the event whiles the event gives an account of what happened. What historians are interested in is not just about what happened but more importantly are the lessons from the event being it political, social, or economic lessons. It can either be positive or negative lessons. This will serve as a guide for future situations as the causes and effects of the events are objectively analysed because the future is shaped by our actions today as Martin Luther King Junior rightly said “we are not makers of history, but we are made by history”.

Our culture as a nation is gradually fading out which is largely because we fail to enquire into the past to know the relevance of those practices and how the society has developed to where it is now.  As said by Cicero “Not to know what happened before you were born is to forever be a child”. Many aspects of our culture have been ignored due to lack of the knowledge of our past.

It must be noted with much importance that history is what we are all part of and we must cherish and uphold. History is not a subject or discipline to run away from but rather one we must all embrace because we have to learn from our past to understand how the society has developed to this stage and to guide us for the future. It is not meant for history students and teachers only but for every individual (living or dead).

Joshua Gbati

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Department of History



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