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Friday, 15 March 2013

Why History?



History is often thought of as a benign and laborious field of study, more so in our part of the world. This is primarily because we inter change history with rhetoric, long and glorified anecdotes brimming with statistical data. Hence it is only natural that this unease about history has been created. We, being a rare breed in academic circles of Pakistan have to have few readymade answers up our sleeves regarding why of all the subjects have we chosen a “useless” and “scope less” subject. Hence we found it imperative to answer this basic question in the inaugural History Department newsletter.
We often have to make choices; some of them directly affect our future. Electing, history as a major field of study was never a hard decision for us, for something important occurred to us. Perhaps, we realized that history embraces something beyond dates and plain narratives. It is a documentation of human experiences. Descartes gave a very befitting example regarding our preconceived notions. “ And yet what do I see from the window but hats and coats which may cover automatic machines? Yet   I judge these to be men…” we have fathomed the very fact that history is different and all-important, to say the least. William Dalrymple  in his new book “ Return of the King” has extensively synthesized the First Afghan War with the current and on-going Afghan War. This shows the importance of history; even a war fought in 1839 should be taken into account, while studying this war-cum counterinsurgency.  How can we possibly analyze the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, until and unless we shed-light on the dictatorial rule of Hosni Mubarak? We Pakistanis have to bear the bitter pill; our country is lagging behind amongst the comity of nations. We have had a long, and directionless odyssey of 65 years; being oblivious of one’s history leads to waywardness. If we think that the current chaos in the country can be examined to its full, without knowing the happenings of past; some of which continue to have an indelible impact on today’s socio-economic landscape. Past is certainly a prologue; it can never be ignored, even while simply studying academic subjects. One can never understand the British constitution without understanding its historical evolution. Probably, we can proffer lessons from our past. It is imperative for the youth to be well versed or rather conversant with history, for significant enough reasons.  A leaf   should be taken out of America’s book; we need to study their history to see to their dramatic yet methodical rise up the ladder. Why can’t we start rationalizing things by studying about the past?
Having discussed the academic side of it, let’s now turn to the “business front”. As the saying goes that money makes the mere go, we need to look at the advantage of studying this subjective as regards jobs and careers are careers. The study of history as a discipline inculcates in us the ability to think critically; develop arguments, and debate with reasoning and evidence.  All these qualities are the need of the hour in all walks of life. In a recent survey, Forbes Magazine revealed that America’s top business tycoons had mostly studied history as a major in their academic life. So we thereby, advise all aspirants not to worry about jobs, whilst studying history.
History . . . is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind." Edward Gibbon

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