Why Study History

Started my new class for the MA in Military Studies and for our first discussion board post, we were asked to comment on an essay by Peter Stearns-Why Study History?  

Peter Stearns discusses a number of reasons why an understanding of history is important to modern society, even though it doesn’t always produce easily identifiable benefits such as a new drug or improved technology.

The two most important points Stearns makes, in my opinion, are the importance of history to good citizenship and the understanding history can provide for how our society has evolved to it’s present state. I think these two ideas compliment each other nicely where an understanding of how the United States’ government, economy and social structure have evolved over the last 233 years helps explain today’s current events.

I find it sad that far too many Americans, who have the attention span of a 30 minute sitcom, believe that the challenges and crises we face today are “unique,” “unprecedented” or “exceptional”. Even a basic understanding of history would show that economic crisis, Islamic terrorism, or even partisan politics are not, in fact, unique to 21st century America. I think a good way to sum up Stearns is to say the history provides perspective and allows a more reflective viewpoint on a situation including, if people are willing to see them, valuable lessons learned on how Americans dealt with past events.

More importantly, I think Stearns makes an excellent point that the skills historians acquire are much more valuable than many “engineering and technical” people realize. The ability to conduct research, critique source material, synthesize information and present that synthesis in a coherent fashion are skills applicable to nearly all careers and organizations. I believe my training as a history major was invaluable to my military career and continues to serve me today in the intelligence field. 

Should be a good class...