Why learning from history is cool : Part II

The past is never simply the past. It always has something to say to us; it tells us the paths to take and the paths not to take.
Pope Benedict

I started this series in June but got busy with No Spend Month Challenge and doing 2 part Life Lessons series, history lessons series was left off till now.

This is second of third part series on why learning from history is cool, if you have not yet read it, please check out the learning from history part 1 here.

Many of us face history during the school or college years and a few like me dreaded memorizing all dates of wars, kings and ruler’s timing as many of us can not related to what has happened in the past with our present life. Without that relations it is often hard to visualize and learn from it.

Often times we are told that we should learn from history to so we will not make those mistakes. While it is true, learning from history or our past have many other benefits and we will explore some here.

  1. We understand people and society from History
  2. We can learn how and why society changed to what we live now
  3. How it is related to our current lives

1. We understand people and society from History

If see in throughout the history since the beginning of early men, we learn how learned different skills and how our early ancestors behaved towards each other and what did they had to learn in order to survive harsh life of that time. We can see from past kings or rulers, how they managed the nations, and what made some culture more ambitious in conquering more lands while other culture were content living on their own.

How and when the technology revolution began and how it benefited the current generation of people. Rome was not built on day is famous saying, same goes for technology and culture advantages that we have made over past century. It is like one drop at the time, we are learning and advancing from past knowledge and past experiences.

Human are complex species and why and how we behave in certain situation has been a great subject for many scientist and people who want to follow personal development to improve upon themselves. Simply saying we are part of society and history for future century to come, there is no escape from it. How we behave and work is important lesson that we must learn from our history.

2. We can learn how and why society changed to what we live now

This reasoning to learn history is closely related to 1st reason very well.  Our present is shaped by our past and and our future will be shaped by our present, that is given. This works in individual bases as well large society bases too. Any time we look at the current situation such as election or current ;oil spill happening in gulf of Mexico , we can look at factors that lead up to current situation. Once we can learn what caused it, we may learn to minimize or stop the effect for future. That is one ideal way of looking at the history lesson.

Also another way we can see through history is to see change or lack-thereof  for human behaviors. Certain things we have changed and other human behavior remains unchanged no matter how much progress we have made in past few hundred years. For example, alcoholism has been part of human society since ages. Although policies and laws have changed through out the history and depending on places, and rates of alcoholism have risen and fallen in different time, it still remains very much part of our lives, even now. In modern times, red wine is touted to bring health benefits which causes more people to drink to be healthier. Of course, all this is only a perspective but it brings a very good point in social change in our society and we can study and learn from past history on this.

3. How it relates to our current lives.

Well written history can be beautiful. It can bring about nation’s pride, hero and legends for future generations to believe in. Well crafted biographies can bring idles from past alive, without such a knowledge we would not some of best authors from 1800 or much before that. We would not have known Pride and Prejudice and story of Jane Austen and that would have been shame for many Austen fans.

We could actually see through historical fiction and non-fiction stories that how society of that era behaved, what was socially accepted, how people worked, what they ate, and so on brings us more understanding to culture and how it changed slowly to current state.  History can be artistic, entertaining, sadistic or even horrific and we as a new society must learn from past event to do better in future. Or at least we ought to.

We as a society have changed a lot, for better. Such as this generation do not smoke cigarettes as much as 20 years ago and we like to believe we are more tolerant of different race and religion now compared to ever before. And that is a good thing that brought to us by lessons learned from history itself.

We can see women were not allowed to vote in past, now we do and are equally treated citizen. Certain things were much frowned upon which is part of normal society such as home schooling , religious and non-religious tolerance. A few people in past have worked hard and suffered for a few causes so that new generation will get to harvest what they planted years ago. We would not have some freedom without such a dedicated people. However, we have lost some freedom in other areas and our generation is in much more financial trouble compared to our parents or specially our grand parents. We have lost some and gained some and that is all part of our past that shapes us today and our future.

Some great Non-Fiction books on History and Learning:

Some great non fiction history books are dry to read and holds little interests to general public, but a few of the following non fiction history books make learning from history fun, sharing with pictures, facts and bloopers made in early times, making it easy and fun read than typical text book.

1. Ten Great Events In History

This book shows 10 events from our history in our life, some are really interesting for me to learn more about, colorful and detailed events from our past.

2. The Greatest Stories Never Told: 100 Tales from History to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy

These are 100 tales of history that did not make it in learning history books such as some roman officials were corrupt, they stole it from themselves, the real reasons pilgrims landed on Plymouth rock because they ran out of beer, and more real but text book unworthy tales to amuse you.

3. History: The Definitive Visual Guide (From The Dawn of Civilization To The Present Day)

This book is visually great with many pictures and excellent reference book for anyone and any age. There is a lot to grasp in our 4.4 million years of history from origin or human till present time with history’s turning points and its effect.

Fictional History books and Novels

There are many great historical fiction that read like non fiction and real such as King Arthur or The Da Vinci Code novels. I have chosen early writer’s books to share some of diverse fictional books that we can learn history from.

1. The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights

Fascinating story of King Arthur and his round circle of knights, it is a great fictional story, which seems so real for many, it has love, betrayal, adventure, magic filled that we all love and adore. There are many movies and shows are based on story as well.

2. War and Peace

War and peace by Leo Tolstoy is detailed, complex and gripping story set in early 19th century of Russian life, land owning class folks. The Bolkonsky and Rostov families comprise most of these figures, but their friends and acquaintances take up nearly as much of the focus of Tolstoy’s classic novel. I did not completely appreciated the novel as a younger student but I love the complexity of these human characters much more now.

3. Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is not only famous romantic story of Mr. Darcy and Ms. Eliza Bennett, but we also get to know people and society of Jane Austen era in late 1700 to early 1800 period. We get to learn that Money did not go to daughter unless it was entailed, and instead it went to nearest male relative and separation of lower class and rich class society. My second favorite book by Jane Austen.

To check out last fun part of history lessons series, click here Why learning from history is cool: Part 3 where we will look at some fictional and non fictional movies and historical quotes. Fun read indeed.

Your turn: Did you like the article? What are your thoughts on history lessons? I sure would like to know your thoughts and opinions on this subject.

Image: Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Author: This post is written by Preeti who writes under name of Zengirl on Heart and Mind Blog. She writes articles about self improvement, stress free and slow living and believes in slow blogging.

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I am stay at home with 2 kids, married to my best friend zenguy. I am in to simplifying, slow and sustainable living, I am frugal, love reading, writing and watching romantic movies. I believe in family, friendship and community.

44 comments

  1. Armen Shirvanian says:

    Hi Preeti.

    There was a time when I would discount history learning, and wasn’t interested in it much at all. There was one day when I realized that events from history were not so different from events occurring now, and that the actions of people long ago were not so different from the people of now. After that point, I can see the value of analyzing historical events or choices.

    Your point there about finding how it relates to our current lives is a solid one. I think it is very easy to find connections between what a person was doing 800 years ago and what we are doing today. It is like free experiential guidance, and while the details may not be modern as in our day-to-day, the methods or strategies or disciplinary measures are often similar to what we need.

    The great book “The 48 Laws Of Power” has loads and loads of historical connections in it as it presents the various laws of power.

  2. Steve says:

    I am far from being a history expert, but I really do enjoy reading about history and I think there are numerous things that history ca teach us. Both in macro history (the world history) and micro history (our own personal history)

    Shakespeare (I think) once said “there is nothing new under the sun” I truly believe this. NO matter what original idea you think up, someone has been there before. Maybe not with the exact idea and specific situation but something close and a similar situation.

    You can find patterns in history and perhaps even learn things from groups in the past.

    Miyatmo Mushashi may have been talking about warfare with swords, but his book is still viewed as a “classic” of warefare because it shows how warriors think and should act to be sucessful. His lessons can be useful even in an age of largly mechanized warfare.

    Adam Smith my have been talking about economics that are dated and antiquated by todays global marketplace standards. But he also spoke truth and lessons from his era still have bearing today.

    There are so many lessons on history that can be important. It is not good to be tied too tightly to the past; it is important to grow. But to ignore the lessons of the past is beyond foolish

  3. TheSimplePoppy says:

    I’ve always enjoyed history, and now that I’m homeschooling my 3rd grader it’s so interesting to see it from her point of view. She’s reading about suffragettes right now and came up and asked me why men back then hated women so much! Sigh. I realise that is how she sees it, and of course since she is young she has yet to read about more egregious “history”, some of it contemporaneous with her, like the conflict in the Dem. Republic of Congo. There is always going to be a lot of explaining to do and it’s just now starting.

    By the way – I like Pride and Prejudice, but my absolute favourite is Persuasion!

  4. Henway says:

    History of the world can teach us many things, but equally important is history of ourselves. I’m sure many of us have made mistakes in the past, but we also need to learn from them, understand where our intuition/mental process went wrong, and resolve never to do it.

    History can’t teach us everything though… what if people wrongly acted the wrong way in the past? We’d be learning from old patterns. Sometimes learning requires breaking away from these old patterns.

  5. Fran Aslam says:

    Hi Preeti:

    What a comprehensive post on History. It is unique and awesome. You have used the benefits how it makes it a difference to understand everything in life i.e. people and society, changes in society and current life.

    it is a fact that history is the visual guide and then there is fictional history. Everything and everyone has history.

    Wow History is so important we use it in our daily life and never though of it as an important factor that improves our lives for the better.

    Thank you for drawing my attention to it.

    for your reading: “How To Write An Ebook That Is Included In The Best Seller list” http://bit.ly/b1mgCf

  6. ZenGirl says:

    Hi Armen,

    I was like that too as I mentioned in part 1 of the series, that I disliked history very much so, as we students were asked/forced to memorize all war dates and so on. It did not make sense learn those things.

    Now that no one has asked me to, I have much more interest on why do we do certain things certain ways. I believe certain things are better today but we have lost much community sense today compared to olden times.

    I believe I have read 40 laws of power while ago but I should read it again and brush up my knowledge. I love to read.

  7. ZenGirl says:

    Steve,

    Even I am not expert on history. The way you are quoting Shakespeare, Miyatmo and Adam Smith, you sure sound like one though!

    I like to learn my own mistakes to grow better as a person and also look at world’s history in general to make some changes as I see fit in my life, as you said macro and micro history both can help us grow and improve our life, at least a little.

  8. ZenGirl says:

    SimplePoppy,

    I did not enjoy history so much when I was young, I do now. I also homeschool my 5 year old, and seeing through his eye, like your 3rd grader makes me amaze and learn much more! Many time I am re-learning things as I teach, really.

    You got to be kidding me, Persuasion is my 1st favorite book of Austen, that is why I said P&P is my 2nd favorite Austen book! I love the book and 1995 version of movie with Ciran Hinds, oh my! we should hook up, homeschooling and persuasion! We can be twins in mind :-)

  9. ZenGirl says:

    Henway,

    Yes, history of us the best way to learn and improve our lives. Until we learn what not do do, we will bound to repeat the mistakes hoping for different outcome! which will not work.

    Learning from old patterns is one way of avoiding the situation, for example, we are more tolerant of women and different race compared to while ago, we do not smoke as we used to like in 70′s, lot of things, invention, medical practice, law and community have changed as we are learning what not to do anymore.

  10. ZenGirl says:

    Fran,

    Thank you, history can be dry and boring subject, as it was for me little while ago. I just wanted to share that history and learning from past can be cool too.

    Many time we do enjoy some learning but do not associate it with history, for example learning about dinosaurs, or learning from fictional story such as Da vinci code.

    Thanks for sharing your ebook success info post.

  11. rob white says:

    Yes, indeed, Preeti. Mankind’s unique ability to learn from the past and consciously create our future is what has us evolve from living in caves to building skyscrapers. No matter what your chosen endeavor we must learn from the past. The contemporary writer or painter must know the works of the masters before he can find his own voice. Today’s technology entrepreneur can learn a great deal from studying the life of Andre Carnegie. I know I am constantly learning from ancient philosophers who say things so clear and concisely that it is still fresh and relevant today.

  12. Sufism World says:

    Fantastic information and its made me realise couple of things. I have always taken history very seriously. For me history is never about stories that occurred 100′s or 1000′s of years ago, but rather mankind’s learning curve for the people of the the future.

    History is remarkably important and I might be echoing something you have already wrote here, but knowing how to improve the present and the Tomorrow, we need to rely on the yesterday (history). We should take lessons from the past and try not to make same mistakes, so life in general improves for everyone.

  13. Sibyl - alternaview says:

    Preeti: This has been a great series on history. I am also fascinated by history and it is interesting to see how it relates to our current lives and how lessons from the past have helped us make progress. I really do think that we can learn so much from looking and studying things in the past and distilling lessons that are relevant today. The key is to look and understand so that we are not missing out on important lessons. Great post.

  14. ZenGirl says:

    Rob,

    Yes, mankind sure has learned quickly from living in caves to building skyscrapers and going in space!

    Andrew Carnegie can teach us many things about bringing best in business with people. There are many wise men and women in past and present who inspires me and teaches me thing or two about a life. Thank you, you are one of the wise man, I learn from!

  15. ZenGirl says:

    Sufism,

    I think you are wise person to take history seriously and learn from it, I am beginning to just do that now.

    Learning from our own past’s mistake and improving it, one of the best way to improve our life and others along with it. Thank you for your input here.

  16. ZenGirl says:

    Sibyl,

    Thank you for liking the series. I think usually many people find history bit dry subject but in reality we can learn from our own past and our world’s past to do many great things and do not need to re-invent the wheels if we just look back, lot of things have changed, yet some things remain the same like all of us want to be liked and cared for.

    It is always good to see your smiling face here, Sibyl.

  17. Mary R says:

    These are all very good points. I always liked history in school, but I recently resumed an active interest in learning about it. I live in Okinawa now, so there are many interesting sights and museums about WWII. I’ve become much more interested in learning about it, and now that I know more, I can’t believe there’s not more emphasis on it in schools considering the major impact on the world.

  18. Betsy Bargain says:

    Thanks for another fascinating post, Preeti. I think the study of history can be boring or thrilling, depending on how it’s presented by educators. One of my favorite memories from school is the time we did a unit on the pioneers, and how they crossed America in the covered wagons. We had to pretend we were the pioneers, planning our route, exactly what we should bring with us, and strategizing as situations arose during our journey. The way this teacher approached the subject really brought this time in our history alive for me.

    As you say, we can learn much from history that will improve our lives today, and continue to improve the future for those who come after us. That’s why it’s such an important subject of study.

  19. taurian says:

    What you need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring you to this very moment. And this is the moment you can choose to make everything new. Right now.

  20. Andrea DeBell - britetalk says:

    Hi Preeti! These are all great points. I love history and what it brings to us. There are various ways to celebrate our history and heritage.

    In a way smaller scope than what you presented, I like to celebrate my family history through scrapbooking. I love the idea of my children have their history narrated in a creative way so they can pass that on to their children. That’s my contribution to my family’s “history books”.

    Wonderful selection of books. Thanks! Loving blessings!

  21. Angela Artemis says:

    Hi Preeti,
    I love history. I was a history minor in college and made the history honors program. I especially loved art history. You can learn so much through the artwork or a period in history. If I had the money – I’d go back to school again. I miss it so much. I also love Jane Austen – I think we talked about that. You do learn so much about that period from her books. I think I must have had a past life in England during that period – I find so fascinating. Thank for another wonderful post.

    Now, I have a question.
    I see you have the Twitter button on you blog, but you don’t tweet?
    Do you want us to tweet you? I’m going to anyway, but let me know.

  22. ZenGirl says:

    Mary,

    It must be so unique living in Okinawa, how do you like it? I love going to museum and learning and knowing facts about past! There is so much information, that I might have learned during college but it seems much more interesting! There is a emphasis in school but maybe the excitement about the history is not there.

  23. ZenGirl says:

    Betsy,

    I agree with you it depends on how history is presented to us, can make it boring or exciting. I think your teacher was very wise to teach history in more practical ways, I wished more teachers did that.

    Knowing about our own past or even world and learning from it can make a positive difference. Thanks for your insightful comment.

  24. ZenGirl says:

    Andrea,

    Celebrating your family history is not small, it will make a huge impact in our and next generation and they will have a place to go and learn from it. I have trying to put together my family tree for sometime, but not everything is known now, as older generation have passed away.

    I think it simply brilliant, kudos to you for doing it. I am glad you liked these book selection, I love reading all types of books and learn a little bit.

  25. ZenGirl says:

    Angela,

    I did not know that you were history minor and made it history honors, that is so quite an achievement. I was opposite, I did not like history as much science subjects. I wished I had learned more than. I am catching up now though, on my own.

    I love Jane Austen a lot, I have read her all 6 novels, plus 2 unfinished novels, her letters, biographies, movies anything I can find on her :-)

    Now to answer your question:

    It has never been a secret that I have social media plugin (since march 2010) as one can see on FAQ , How to support Heart and Mind , and twitter post and even my 10 plugin guest post at Virgin blogger that I use it. It is happy compromise that works for me right now as a part time blogger. If anyone wants to help, the tool is there, if not that is okay too.

    I share great posts in my own way with link love on my blog whenever I get a chance. I have gotten a few tweets from kind friends and even though my twitter traffic is negligible as shown in Blogging Report , I appreciate every comments, tweet, or mention or simply showing up here. No blog can be an island, we all need and can use help so Thank you all.

  26. Fran Aslam says:

    Hi Preeti:

    Hope you are doing great. I was doing my favorite job, blog hopping and came to your site, spent some time reading your post and another one about history.

    It is a fact that we understand people and society from History. It helps us decide what to do and how to do. I agree with you
    Our developed lives are so elite because we learned how to be here with history. And then you mentioned 10 great events from History. Did you study History in the university or is it your passion to know about history. You are a history Wiz. Awesome post.

    Enjoy your week end.

    Fran Aslam

  27. Marko -- Calm Growth says:

    Great points, as always ;)

    I particularly like the point No. 1 – “We understand people and society from History” – I believe that the past should be viewed without ego and emotions, but as a tool to serve growth. Understanding of society before, help in the understanding of society today.

    Anyone who has knowledge of the past can see the facts that determine the present (and future.)

  28. ZenGirl says:

    Marko,

    I am glad to see you and I am glad you liked this.

    Great point! When we start seeing past or history with emotions or ego, problems arises and we do not learn or become aware of lesson that needs to learn for us to move ahead, be it personal history or human history! I love your last sentence, it is so profound, “Anyone who has knowledge of the past can see the facts that determine the present (and future.)”

  29. ZenGirl says:

    Fran,

    I like blog reading too, I am glad you liked both history post, there is 3rd one coming in the series. No, I am not expert in history, my background is in engineering and marketing. I am just beginning to like my own and human past to see how I can improve myself.

    I am enjoying the weekend, I hope you have great one too.

  30. ZenGirl says:

    Gail,

    Sounds like a intriguing read, I have not read it yet! I will put it in my read list! I love reading and even with my busy life with kids, I try to read a few books every month. Learning history via book is sometimes more fun compared to text book!

  31. Kamal says:

    Nice article. Your second point is quite interestingly also ‘evolution’. While people may not think of Evolution as History, it very much is. While you mention important aspects of our life today like the gulf oil spill, which is “modern Evolution” where we learn and evolve.

    I guess on alcoholism, evolution does not seem to work. I guess the intoxication is quite high to learn! I like the nice contrasts you bring in your articles. I am going through your list of books now!

  32. Aileen says:

    You are a natural educator Preeti!

    In my school years I could not get into history at all. I tried to just memorize facts for the exams and found it to be dreadfully boring (I admit it). Now numerous years later, I find it incredibly fascinating. I see the story – the evolution – the similarities and the differences.

  33. Vaishali says:

    Great post, Preeti! History teaches us the best lessons going forward. I was not a big fan of history in school, but as an adult — and a journalist– I realized its value.

  34. ZenGirl says:

    Kamal,

    I can tell you read the whole post thoroughly. Yes, evolution can be history as well science too. Gulf spill is unfortunate but if we look back we know how and why it happened and ways we can do to help now so future can be a bit better place. And alcohol’s place in different era has its ups and down with changing laws but it has been steadily popular somehow, I wonder why? :-) Thanks for always leaving thoughtful comments here.

  35. ZenGirl says:

    Aileen,

    Do you think so? Well, Thank you.

    I am like you too, during my school and college years, I prefer science and math over history and geography but I appreciate all subjects much better as I can see values and relevance our life now.

  36. ZenGirl says:

    Vaishali,

    Yes, if our own past can teach us and so can our human history on broader subject. I think many of us as an adult realize the values that history teaches us, I too did not appreciate history as well as should have in school. I can imagine as a journalist, you probably go through many lessons learned from past and apply to present! Thanks for chiming in.

  37. The Vizier says:

    Hi Preeti,

    I love history! I absolutely adore it. I have always preferred history to fiction because it was real and actually happened. But like you, I hated being forced to study history in school. The history subjects were always so boring and the teachers didn’t help at all.

    But interestingly, when left to my own devices, I developed a great love for history. It started with Romance of the Three Kingdoms. I have been playing the game for almost 20 years! From there I went on the read the actual novel and the historical facts behind the novel. It has taught me much about life, ruling, leading and military strategies.

    Yet that was not all. My love for history exploded when I discovered Age of Empire 2: Age of Kings. I stumbled upon the Byzantine Empire through the game and since then almost 15 years ago, I have been an avid fan of the Byzantine Empire and its successor the Ottomans. I have read whatever books and articles I could get my hands on regarding these empires. I even have another website: Neo Byzantium; dedicated to the Byzantines where I just write about the empire for general readers.

    Having been brought up listening to stories of King Arthur and Robin Hood, I found that they never really inspired me the way the Orient or the East did. I have always preferred the Middle East to Western Europe. Apart from the Byzantines and Ottomans I love the Mughals, the Mongols, and the warring states period in Japan. I have also preferred brains and strategy to brawn. It was in these areas that the Byzantines and Chinese excelled in.

    I love learning from great emperors and the challenges they faced. I love reading about the way emperors rule because their power and decisions can affect many lives for better or worse, so it is important they rule well and with prudence. I also love the rise and fall of empires. It’s so easy to forget that nothing lasts forever. But when you read history, you will always be aware of this truth.

    As you have wisely put it, those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat it. In the meantime, learning from history is also a great read about the tales of daring and strategy.

    Thanks for this great post!

  38. ZenGirl says:

    Irving,

    I thought you might like the lessons we can learn from history, based on your last post. I did not appreciate history till a few years ago and I am happy to see the light. History can be dry and boring for many but if we look at right, we can learn so much from it, our own history and history of people both have stories to tell and teach.

    Thank you for detailed and thoughtful comment! I learn a lot from it.

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