We live in a digital age and our behaviors are governed by the new innovations and technologies that we have access to. Technology has led to almost every aspect of our lives being changed almost beyond recognition: health, education, work and leisure. Yet, with all these advancements, it is the past and history that shapes our future: by understanding history, we understand the present, and so the future. The human condition is more than just RAM and gigabytes, and although the technologies and tools that we use have advanced, as human beings we remain very similar to our predecessors; how often have you used or heard the phrase ‘it’s history repeating itself’?
- Ask Questions and Listen to the Answers
Family members from older generations are a rich source of information about the past. You may be up to speed about the economic and political history of your country or region, but have you taken time to ask older people about their experiences? Reading about history is one thing but understanding the effect on real people is quite another. Books, while informative, are always written from a set perspective; in the mildest form there will be some bias and political agenda, and in some instances, historic books could be considered propaganda read today. If you have the opportunity to speak to older loved ones about their experiences, you will gain a first-hand account of the realities of living in that era, which may be very different to the printed text of a book.
- Understand Artefacts and Visit Museums
It is easy to read online or from books facts about historical events, but if you have a tangible object in your hands or that you can see in a museum, you get a deeper understanding about the period of history that they are from – it humanizes the experience. War medals, for example, are a representation of great acts of bravery and courage, and tell a story of the recipient and their personal achievements and the campaigns that they were involved in. Look at ulricofengland.com, to understand the meaning afforded to each medal type. Look at how the people of the past lived their lives to understand why responses to actions were taken. Hindsight gives perfect vision as to what should have been done and errors that were made, but by putting yourself in the same position, would you have reacted any differently?
- Listen to Music from the Past
Music is found in every culture and has always been a reflection of the popular culture of the time that it was written. Although a source of entertainment, music has been a vehicle to communicate the political climate of the time, and the words in songs have been powerful instruments to give a true reflection of what the man on the street was feeling. For example, folk songs are taught from childhood and passed from generation to generation; although they may have lost their original meaning and strength, they are associated with past times’ daily activities: planting and harvesting, the hopes, fears, and aspirations of villagers, etc.
By understanding history, the causes and effects of the past, we are better equipped to understand the present. Human behavior is unpredictable; however, history provides us with valuable insights that can benefit the future.