Why Study History?
History is the study of the past in all its complexity, including the good and the bad from ancient to recent times and encompassing humans and their broader environments. Neither memorization nor recitation, history instead is the study of cause and effect on the grandest scale via the search for new evidence and new understandings. So why study history? To develop the skills of analysis, communication, and interpretation that will help us to understand the diverse world around us better, and maybe, ourselves.
The study of history requires that students learn numerous skills which are beneficial for future endeavors. Finding and understanding the records of the past, whether archived letters, archaeological artifacts, political manifestos, government documents, or television advertisements, requires both methodical diligence and creative assessment. Learning how to interpret historical data helps form the capacity to analyze evidence in the present. Finally the interpreted data must be put into a coherent narrative with a clear argument. That means that the development of both oral and written communication is central to the study of history. Students must communicate complex ideas backed by different kinds of evidence in easily understood narratives in order to make history accessible.
The skills of research, analysis, and communication are central to virtually all careers. Unlike other disciplines which narrowly prepare their students, history offers a plethora of skills which support its students’ futures wherever they go. Perhaps more importantly, the study of the past reinforces our humanity and encourages engagement with our broader society. We study history to expand our understanding of the world and to better connect with the diversity of experiences around us.