Something happened on my blog yesterday which doesn’t happen every day: I got a new follower. This isn’t one of those mega blogs that aims to be a major player and which actually looks more like a ‘proper’ website than a blog. This is just (not so) little old me with my thoughts. Every follower is someone who has made a conscious decision to do that – well, I hope they were conscious – and I appreciate each and every one. Likewise, every time someone reads what I write I am honoured that you have given a little of your time to me. So, new follower, welcome!
I don’t follow everyone back – I make the same informed choice that they have made. But I always look at their blog, as I like to see the range of people who might be interested in my thoughts. Yesterday’s follower was one that made me think. Prompted, no doubt, by my post about the history of Guy Fawkes Night in the UK Samantha, who writes The Historical Diaries, followed me. I’ve given you a link, so please have a look at her blog. I am interested in our history, so was pleased to follow back. But it got me thinking: why follow me? I am not writing about history, although a number of my posts have had historical themes and I mention it in many others. So hopefully I won’t be an instant disappointment! But this wasn’t really what I spent time on – what took my attention was history itself. Why do we study it? What can we learn from it?
I guess it is something we begin to notice as we get older, and have more history of our own. Most of us were introduced to history in a school classroom, usually by a teacher who did little to enthuse us about the subject. I’m no different: I chose to study it to exam level instead of a science, as I was hopeless at scientific subjects, and then dropped it once I had somehow passed an exam. Looking back, that was a criminal waste! When you think about it, the world in which we live has been shaped by its history, and the more we know about that the better we can hope to understand what is happening nowadays. After all, this will be the subject of future history lessons. This may be sooner than you think, too: I remember when one of my daughters first asked me about the Beatles. At last, I thought, she is beginning to take an interest in the music I like. So I asked her why she wanted to know, and was put firmly in my place by her reply: “we’re studying the 1960s in history!”
The more I get to know about the history of the world to date, the more I realise that there is nothing really new happening. The two major issues of recent years have been global terrorism and economic downturn. But neither of these is new: we are just experiencing the 21st century version of them. Much of the terrorist activity is linked to, or claimed to be carried out in, the name of one religion or another. But conflicts with a religious aspect have been around for more than 1600 of the past 2000 years, and most of those ‘missing’ years were before 1000AD. And I’m no economist but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the world, either wholly or in part, has always varied in its levels of economic health and wellbeing.
It could be argued that we haven’t learned many lessons from history, but to my mind that would be a depressing thought. Yes of course we keep on making mistakes, often the same ones that our ancestors made, but I’m a firm believer that it is better to sin by commission rather than omission, i.e. that doing nothing is not an option, as it will change nothing. Maybe you wonder whether we need to make changes. Let me ask you a question in response to that: do you think we live in a perfect world? If not – and I’d find it hard to accept any argument that we do – then change is needed. We shouldn’t lose sight of what the past can tell us in helping us make those changes.