"What Can We Learn From History?" Discussion Of John Tosh's Thesis On History

1019 words - 4 pages

Since Herodotus' first annotations of history simply for the purpose of ensuring that "the great deeds of man may not be forgotten", there have been many developments in the reasons behind historical enquiry. As John Tosh outlined in "The Pursuit of History", humanity has changed its theories regarding the purpose of history from seeking understanding of our fate as determined by God, to the belief that we determined our own fate and later that history was of no consequence in determining the future. Thus it is evident that the work of historians has evolved and changed to display their own attitudes towards the uses of history and that these are central to our understanding and interpretation of their works.Firstly, stemming from the prevalence of religion in the social structures of later historians, the expectation that the will of God would be revealed held a societal relevance that was not widely discredited until the 18th century. This expectation from history demands to be in the form of a metahistory so that a concise and clear meaning can be derived from the past. When this ideology was initially conceived, around the Medieval age, the pace of life and historical, industrial and social change was far slower than it is in the modern era, making it a more suitable environment for the widespread acceptance that history could relate the majority of knowledge needed in the future. Today, with the constant retraining and mobility of the workforce, the knowledge needed today in many jobs did not even exist ten years ago, for example various expertise required for computer programming, engineering or graphics design. However, it can also be argued that there is still belief in the ultimate fate of the world, which the course of history is inescapably drawing us closer to with every innovation of nuclear weapons, cloning methods and disregard for natural sustainability and the environment. This is evident from the popularity of films based on the theory of the apocalypse, such as "The Day After Tomorrow".Another debatable theory is the metahistory based on the theory of Marxism. Marxist belief outlines the natural progression from feudalism to an uprising of the people, the formation of a nation-state based on industrial capitalism and the final stage in which socialism would prevail, creating social and economic satisfaction for everyone, equally. From historical example, socialism does not appear to work in practice, with the demise or ineffective governments of the Soviet Union, Cuba and Angola being prime examples. Further, given that the United States of America is potentially the "super power" of the world today and their deeply rooted objection to socialism, it does not seem at all likely that Marxist theory will go to completion. However, it must also be recognised that Marxist theory has been historically correct as far as the stage of industrial capitalism, which existed as recently as the second Industrial Revolution of the later...

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