What Is History?
What is history? Where do I start? And who says it started there? I wasn’t there,
does it matter? Can I accept whatever happens in another part of the world into my
personal history, or just in the worlds history? What parts of history are most important?
Who decides? What a question! The word history has many attached meanings to it, and
the result is that the definition for history depends on who it is you are asking. But What
is it? Dictionary.com states that, “history is a narrative of events; a story.” Everyone has
stories. it goes without saying then that everyone has history. But what about looking at
the world in a broader aspect. I think we could look at humans, in whole, and see that we
all have a history; a social history. Also, what students mostly study in textbooks, and in
lecture halls; political history. Therefore, history, in my terms, can be broken into three
very different branches: Personal, Social, and political.
A friend of mine unfortunately parted ways with a woman whom he devoted a
long period of time to. Inquiring, as I often do, I ask for the details on their break up. I
was given a response of, “Man, She’s history.” And my friend is exactly correct. This
woman now lies within his personal history. Had this girl never came into my friends life,
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he could not claim her a part of his history; his past. We have defined history as, “a
story,” and my friend can tell stories of him and his girl. (in fact lately that is all he talks
The Vietnam war was a very important part in history. Actually, the boss at my
present place of employment served a long period of time in the war. He was a grunt. I
have asked him about it, trying to hear maybe a story or two of what it was like, but he
doesn’t like to talk about it. this part of his history he shuts out. Many veterans are like
this. I believe the reason being is that the war that is in his history is a very different war
than we could ever read in books or hear about from professors. War is different for
everyone; as is history itself.
These few examples give way to the first area of history; personal history. This is
the story that everyone has. A day to day evolving story of everything that resides in an
individuals past. Anything someone can think of that has happened; their retelling of it
becomes history. Personal history can, just as the other branches of history, be interpreted
for meaning and truth, and most importantly to help with decisions in the future. My
friend who had the, “split up,” can now go over all the history he has with his girl and
figure out what it was the lead to the break up. this is important, for this information can
help him with future relationships. On the other hand, as in the case of my boss, some
people refuse analyzing the past for information. Sometimes the stories are too difficult;
too hard to handle. This is acceptable, for it is his history and his choice to do with it
what he wants.
The next aspect of history is the social history that we all help to form. Social
history resides on a broader scale of things, throwing out every single personal history.
Social history, I define, is the story of human beings. How we got to where we are today.
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What we did to get here. How we have changed. In social history we can understand
different groups of humans, and this is where we are greatly influenced by things such as
culture, family, and living. Our social history is long. It starts somewhere in the middle of
nothing. God or the Big Bang? you pick. and it ends up here right now. We started small,
maybe even as small as little neutrons and protons, but we have evolved. We have
created a language, created trasnspotation, created the basics of living (food, water,
shelter) most importantly we have created the thoughts feelings and moods which now
influence us on our journey ahead. To retrace some steps, Social history is how the
human exists. What he and she have done to remain.
Last but not least is political history. Personal it is my most un-favorite are, but
that is not important. Someone decided long ago that politics are important, and so they
are. political history is the history that separates one nation from another. Political history
is the study of our own government, what it has done to help get us where we are, also
what it has not done. With political history often comes an unruly amount of names and
faces and dates. This history is often the most mistaken. A little bit cleaned up to make it
look good on paper, if you will. History books retell what happened, politically and often
socially, so we can understand where we come from and where we are headed. For years
in grade school and in high school you were to read your history books as if they were the
truth. Now in college I have come to the understanding that what lies in the books are
only words. These words may help understand what went on in the past, but they can not
be exact. For instance, I never learned, in high school, that when pearl Harbor was
bombed that Americans set up there own camps for the Japanese; just as Hitler did for
the Jews. This was not in the books, the teacher didn’t speak a word of it; yet it remains a
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very important part of history. It shows not only was that time for the “Americanese,” a
tough one, but also that we as American were influenced by the disgusting, demanding
powers of Hitler.
Politics; one of the three taboo’s when you are in a bar. You never talk about
money, religion, or politics. This is the truth. Many people have their own interpretation
of political history. Many kling to the red, white and blue as if it is all they know. It is
wrong though, that instead of learning about what really happened in the past, we learned
about things like patriotism, “ the golden era,” and all the other glitter. Our political
history runs as deep as the Mississippi. And I am sure if you want to scrape up info on
politics in the past, they may be as muddy as that big river.
This is our history; take it or leave it. It is what we have done; good or bad.
Again, our history can be broken down to three different branches; Personal, Social, and
Political. All of these, if studied in an un-bias manner, can help to see what lies ahead
tomorrow. We know what he have done, and we know what we can do; we just wait to
see what happens. In the meanwhile there is history. Something to talk about; “ A story.”