Can history be enjoyable? Is it possible for the memorization of historical facts, events, people and dates to hold the imaginations and minds of both children and adults?
Of course it is! Readers may believe I write this from a biased perspective (history being one of the two loves of my life – I am a historian, after all), but one of the most important jobs as an historian is the struggle to remain objective.
Naturally, the entire population will not develop a passion for history. The historical community does not expect such things. What is desirable, however, is an appreciation, a respect for history. As with any other subject, some will find the content riveting, and others will find it bringing them to tears.
Children, from a young, often develop a syndrome in which they come to detest history. And it may not even be just history they loathe – it can include any other school subject.
What sets history apart though, is that it does not have the hands on experiments of Science. It does not have the calculating of Math. It lacks the dynamism of Art, and
But the interesting part is, these are all perceptions. Like history, the above statements are open to interpretation. History is hands on. It is in the monuments and museums found in both urban and rural areas alike. It find percentages and fractions (the 3/5 Clause) to describe the effects of people and events. It tells the story of how art has developed and changed in response to the environment in which it was created.
The point is that history is in everything. Everything has its own history. To understand whatever subject interests you, you must understand how that subject came to be.
Make history interactive. Interpret it. Take the basic facts and tell the history of a topic in your words. While certain facts cannot be disputed (South Carolina seceded from the Union in December of 1860), the story which these facts tell can be interpreted by individuals (the reason for secession was purely states rights). Some historians argue though that while the fight for states’ rights was one reason for secession, slavery was at the centerfold. Now, it can also be argued that as whether a state determined to have slavery within its borders was a state’s choice, and therefore, one of the rights of a state. So, by default, slavery is a major part of the states’ rights argument. None of these interpretations is entirely right or wrong. It is interpretation. Now, if someone were to argue that South Carolina seceded because they were tired of growing cotton, there might be some difficulty convincing anyone of that. There is no proof, as of yet, suggesting that South Carolina was tired of growing cotton, or that it in any way led them to want to leave the Union.
Perhaps the question has come to mind: Why does this even matter?
The answer is not a simple one, and if it is, it is probably not the whole answer. Understanding the reasons for South Carolina’s secession from the Union illustrated the spirit of the country. The reasons can be valid or not, depending on your perspective, but it remains that Americans generally speaking stand for what they support. Right or wrong, Americans do this. This is not patriotism, but rather a fact proved throughout history. The secession of South Carolina contributes to the history of the United States. Not only does it further support the concept of what America has developed into, it also can help explain for instance, why so much of the South is politically conservative today.
To go blithely through life, unaware of the basic history around, suggests little regard for the world in which we live. If we can understand the cause and effect of events in history, we can better understand why events occur the way in which they do now.
Determining why history matters is perhaps the most difficult, and yet the most important, aspect of the study of history. The facts and events of the past are our evidence; the history is the interpretation of the evidence; why we study it is our defense.
The next part will discuss the mediums of understanding history.