27 May 2022 16:26
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History Matters: Its Values and Branches

History helps to understand the complex connection between continuity and change, further enhancing institutions and ideas' origins, evolution, and perish.

People live in the present and make plans about the future without grasping their past like a ‘tree without roots. Similarly, many are sceptical about the relevance of things that happened in the past and question the practical implications of history but consider oneself without knowing your history, which is termed by scholars as like a vegetable without a past.

Therefore, if you are hungry to know about the past and have a desire to learn lessons for a better present and future, history is the cuisine to satisfy your appetite. Life without history means lacking objective, meaning, goal and vision, and it would be difficult to derive a sense of one’s life and the world that surrounds oneself will be in vain.

In order to understand the events around us, be it depicting reality in the movie ‘Kashmir Files’ or the historicity of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, it is necessary to analyse and understand the history behind any event or phenomenon. 

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History as a subject is opted by numerous youth that opens professional career as a history teacher in school, lecturer at tertiary level, archivist, archaeologist, museum curator, play writer, novelist, TV and media anchor, journalist, content managers, lawyers, social workers, administrators, social scientist and policy analytics, diplomats and political analyst, international relation experts, economist government jobs, writers and much more.

This op-ed explores the meaning of history, its value and its branches.

Meaning of History

E.H.Carr’s What is History? (1961) defined history as “a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the present and the past”. He compares historians’ work with that of a cook. A historian collects historical facts of significance similar to a cook who collects indigents to prepare his cuisine, takes them at home and cooks and serves them in whatever style appeals to him.

History and how to understand it; Picture Source: @CANAVA
History and how to understand it; Picture Source: @CANAVA

Everything in the past is not history, only the things of historical significance, which are highlighted by historians by using historical sources selectively and bringing the story/action/event to floor for the audience. Thus, historians bring the past to life by analysing the facts. Therefore, in order to understand the present, one has to have knowledge of the past as the analysis and interpretation of history gives a vital context for evaluating contemporary institutions, politics, society and cultures.

Everything in the past is not history; only things of historical relevance are emphasised by historians by selecting utilising historical sources and bringing the story/action/event to the floor for the audience. Historians, through analysing evidence, bring the past to life. To comprehend the present, one must first understand the past, since historical study and interpretation provide a critical backdrop for analysing modern institutions, politics, society, and cultures.

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History is the only field that explains historical causality, providing answers to five Ws (what occurred, who was involved, when it happened, where it happened, and why it happened) and one H (how did it happen) to create an event’s cause and effect link. It helps to understand the complex connection between continuity and change, further enhancing institutions and ideas’ origins, evolution, and perish. History acts as a laboratory in which evidence from the past is reviewed to determine why humans behaved in a specific manner in the past society.

Varieties of Discipline 

History as an academic discipline saw classification during the 16th to 19th centuries, which became a specialised field of professional opportunity for many. There emerged a study of ancient and historical sites and artefacts (i.e. architecture, ecofact and cultural landscapes) known as Archaeology, which examines human activities through recovery and analysing the material culture. 

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Image source: WW1 Indian soldiers – UKPHA Twitter.

This field study is about prehistoric societies that lack written historical records and tries to comprehend the cultural history and interpret the changes in human culture across time. This involves surveying, excavation and data analysis to develop an understanding about the past. 

The study of inscriptions or epigraphy, as writing; it is a science of identifying graphemes, defining their meanings, categorising their usage according to times and cultural settings, and deriving inferences about the writing and the authors is known as epigraphy.

An epigrapher or epigraphist is a person who uses epigraphic techniques, who are in charge of reconstructing, interpreting, and dating the trilingual inscriptions. An epigraph may be any kind of writing like grapheme (engraving in stones or metals), any form of writing on rocks, cast metals, precious stones, painting, and documents, on coins, inscriptional writing and others.

Another branch is the study of coins known as numismatics, which includes various currency forms like coins, paper money, currencies, medals, tokens, securities, and similar objects. The numismatists’ study of money’s physical embodiment includes economic and historical studies of money’s usage and history.

This is a broader study of money and forms of money that were used to resolve debts, exchange goods and other payment methods. Its objective is to study their physical properties, artistic values on coinage, technology and materials used for printing and minting, and historical usage. History also gives a platform to understand interdisciplinary fields like museology, archaeology, anthropology, ethnography, conservation studies and forms of fine arts.

Conclusion

History offers several sub-branches to study that can be categorised into significant branches, including political, social, economic, art, diplomatic, food, women, sciences, medicine, environmental, intellectual, cultural and others. Studying history will make one an informed citizen, critical thinker and awaken. Moreover, a variety of Professional opportunities are offered by studying history, but an aware historical person stands a better chance to understand the world’s past in the present to make the future better.

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Author: Dr Sakul Kundra is an Acting Head of School and Assistant Professor in history at FNU. Views expressed are his own and not of this newspaper or his employer. Email. [email protected].

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