Why Does History Matter?
On the evening of Tuesday 20 June, the A level historians visited the Royal Institution to hear the renowned historian, Simon Schama.
This opportunity enabled us to further widen our historical knowledge and gave us an informative viewpoint on history as a whole. The historian himself was opinionated in a humorous way, allowing him to express his own view, but also able to welcome opposing ideas.
Schama began his speech with a key quotation, stating that knowledge from the past helps the future, ‘history is activist… a natural antagonist’, which also implies that someone’s truth may not necessarily be your truth but the facts are unavoidable. Furthermore, this was emphasised when Schama stated that ‘history is pluralist; it is about putting yourself in other people’s shoes again and again’.
Schama explored the importance of history in the present day and expressed his concerns about fake news in the modern world and how it influences people. However, he consoled the audience by suggesting that the truth always comes out regardless of fabrications in history or opposing viewpoints. Schama used the example of George Orwell’s novel 1984, stating that the past holds great importance as it always references the truth. Schama supports the importance of retaining free media to ensure a wide coverage of interpretation regarding different events.
History is an important and relevant subject, and Schama showed this by recognising Trump’s ignorance and lack of understanding when Trump referenced Fredrick Douglass, a key historical figure in black American history, whom he clearly did not know had died in 1895. This links closely to the current difficulties we face as a society when we try to find out the truth behind certain events with the huge amount of unchecked and unsubstantiated information surrounding them.
This experience further emphasised our passion for history and broadened our knowledge. One quotation that has stayed with us is that ‘freedom and history are tied together, it is up to us to be conscientiously active’. This shows how significant history is in contributing to our daily lives and how history allows us to have alternative outlooks on the present, which will continuously affect our future.
By Lauren Lewis and Mirai Kotecha, Year 12