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Why History Matters- Maggie Otradovec

“All people and peoples are living histories.” This simple sentence at the beginning of the second paragraph in Penelope J. Corfield’s article answers the overarching question: why does history matter? Corfield then goes on to point out obvious examples of this “living history,” including languages spoken, traditions and religions practiced, and even the use of technology that another person made. Corfield states that “understanding the linkages between past and present is absolutely basic for a good understanding of the condition of being human.” 

    Every individual, whether consciously done or not, seeks out their history. Sometimes it is as obvious as creating your family tree. Other times it is as simple as asking your parents or grandparents about their lives before you were born. I dug deeper into my own history by exploring Ancestry.com and submitting a DNA sample to 23&Me. I had no idea that I was 0.9% Spanish and Portuguese. I learned so much from just a little saliva in a tube. However, stopping there would only give me part of the story. In order to fully appreciate where you can from and how you became the person you are, you have to understand the context of when your ancestors lived. 

    In a broader sense, understanding history and historical topics on a global scale can help you understand why the world is the way it is today. History is every moment (ever), from when the earth was first created (whether it be divinely or scientifically) to every time someone tried to invade Russia in winter. One can look at history and learn from the mistakes and triumphs of people who lived before them. Any opportunity for education is not “bunk,” it is something that should be valued and appreciated. When you learn from the mistakes and triumphs of history, you can better understand both human nature in its essence and where we are going as a species. 

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4 Comments

  1. Christopher Wilson Christopher Wilson

    I highly resonated with this post in response to Corfield’s (2008) article! I concur with Maggie’s statement that everyone- young and old- seeks out their history. Though, I would add that not only does everyone seek out their history, but also that we all are a vital piece of living in the present while also unconsciously adding to the past, which we commonly accept as history. This synchronic to diachronic viewpoint of the present always being part of the unfolding past Corfield (2008) mentions allows us- as Maggie points out- to better appreciate our upbringings and ancestral roots that influence us to become who we are today.

  2. Carly Cohen Carly Cohen

    I agree with your statements and reasoning for why history is certainly not “bunk.” History is all around us and within us and changes every single day. Without learning from previous mistakes or triumphs, the world would look a lot different. In the Corfield article, it stated that history is “inescapable” and I agree with this completely.

    • Jeffrey Sprung Jeffrey Sprung

      I really liked your post. I thought Corfield’s statement of, “All people and peoples are living histories,” was a very interesting perspective on the subject of History. I agree with this statement and believe your DNA test perfectly validates Coerfield’s viewpoint as people’s ancestries all tie to different parts of History thus proving that “people are living histories.”

  3. Alexandra Oloughlin Alexandra Oloughlin

    I really liked your personal anecdote in the post, it really made the post carry a theme that was relatable. Your example of DNA brought to life the “living history” and how even unconsciously, we are all connected to the past through a variety of different things. It is extremely important to have a connection with our past because that knowledge allows to move forward and make positive and progressive changes.

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