Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it

There seems to be quite a lot of interest in what is taught in History at the moment. Unfortunately however – probably for political reasons, or to project a version of our country’s history in a favourable light (though I’m not sure how that’s entirely possible) – all the discussion revolves around the cult of personality. History really shouldn’t be all about Henry VIII or Churchill, or all about men for that matter, or indeed all about things that happened X number of years ago, or all about the history of the UK. It will inevitably be about the big stuff though.

It seems to me that there are any number of “issues” (not all of which have to be negative either), for example (just off the top of my head):

  • living with each other / boundaries and borders
  • human endeavour: progress
  • modes of governance – structure of society
  • laws / civil disobedience
  • fighting for what’s right / conflict resolution
  • the relationship between religion (or personal beliefs) and state

And that each issue can be multiplied by any number of historic responses to it.

BBC Radio 4 broadcasts an excellent programme called The Long View, which looks at a current affair, and considers a historical parallel. They explore the historical problem and the solution applied, to see if it offers answers to its modern equivalent.

Surely that’s what History’s about? After all, as Edna Saint Vincent Millay observed “It’s not true that life is one damn thing after another… It’s one damn thing over and over.”

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