HISTORY IS MORE THAN A NARRATIVE

Today there is a general feeling among the masses that history is of no relevance and if one has to survive in this competitive world one should be equipped with some skills. One acquires a skill to get a job to earn a livelihood whereas one obtains knowledge to gain wisdom. Historical awareness helps us gain wisdom, the ultimate of human knowledge.

Thousands of hectares of land with virgin forests and animal life are submerged in order to erect dams to irrigate land and grow food and to produce electricity for human consumption. Animals are tortured and experimented in order to produce medicines and cosmetics for human use. Plants and animals are consumed as food. All this is done on the presumption that born with superior intelligence, man is superior to other creatures and that everything exists only for the fulfillment of his needs. In this context, history can claim preeminence over other branches of knowledge as it deals with the study and development of man in his attempt to become a civilized living being.

Today the study of history is indispensable if contemporary society is to solve the problems facing it, especially so in India. In our country, the lack of interest in studying history may be due to various factors. One reason may be the severe poverty. People are more concerned in acquiring a skill so as to get a job for their livelihood. Yet another reason may be the attitude of our political and religious leaders, who fearing that their hold over the masses will be loosened once historical consciousness are developed by them, deliberately see that the awareness and progress of historical studies is stunted or written to suit their ideology.

It is mainly due to neglect of the study of history that our country is facing political chaos. There is definitely a link between lack of historical awareness and poverty of a nation. From history we learn that India had a tradition of despotic rule. When the British introduced elective principles during their rule in India, only those who paid taxes and were educated were eligible to take part in the elections. The British wanted to introduce parliamentary form of government in a phased manner as they felt Indians lacked experience in working under that system. (All countries having democratic form of countries introduced universal franchise in a phased manner over a period of time). But in India after 1947 all restrictions were removed and the illiterate and ignorant masses devoid of political education and historical awareness, influenced by temporary material gains, failed to cast their votes wisely, resulting in political instability. This in turn led to stagnation of economic activity, unemployment, illiteracy and poverty.

Progress of a country can take place only if there is intelligent leadership at the top. Patriotism, spirit of sacrifice and wisdom are the qualities, which our statesmen should possess in order to run the government. These qualities are obtained only through the study of history. For our cream of bureaucracy, the I.A.S. officers, a good knowledge of history would offer them valuable guidance in taking decisions most needed under adverse circumstances and during difficult situations. If at all our policy planners in the ministry of External Affairs have stumbled in maintaining good relationship with our neighbouring countries like China, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, it is mainly due to their lack of knowledge about the history of those nations.

One ridiculous practice followed by our military establishment is the celebration of the anniversary of their different regiments, which were raised during the British rule. The Indian army under the British was a mercenary one which helped them establish hegemony over India. Instead of feeling ashamed of their past association with them, they proudly flaunt their British connection which is nothing but a failure on their part to grasp historical truths. Regarding the aversion of the Indian youth to join the armed forces, it is not due to low salary but a lack of patriotism, the result of neglecting a study of history.

If an analysis is made to ascertain what led the countries of Europe towards industrialization and development, we find that it was possible only due to Renaissance. This later resulted in the Industrial revolution, first in England and then in other parts of Europe. Again, renaissance was possible due to the study of Greek and Roman Classics, which included history. This helped them develop critical thinking, reasoning and provided inspiration for their intellectual development and scientific progress.

History is the documentation of the progress made by the mankind in various fields, hence students of various faculties benefit from its study. For instance a student of modern medical science can learn a lot by studying the history of Ayurveda and Acupuncture. This would also equip him/her with different methodologies for treating ailments if situation requires. A student of Civil engineering or Architecture will be immensely benefited by the study of the city planning and drainage- system, which had evolved in Saraswathi-Sindhu Civilization, so also the study of various monuments that has stood the ravages of time. The preservation of dead bodies by using chemicals by ancient Egyptians show the progress made by them in the field of Chemistry. Similarly the Iron Pillar near Delhi though installed several centuries ago has not rusted until now. This shows the advanced knowledge, which our predecessors had.

History according to Allen Nevins is not merely a narrative of the past but a bridge connecting the past with the present and pointing the road to the future. A society without history is like a man without memory. Self-respect, patriotism, lofty ideals in life, social and political consciousness are some of the characters imbibed by the study of history. A study of history helps us understand the growth and development of several ideas and institutions, about our culture and customs, broadens our outlook and gives a meaning to our life. It is high time that history occupies it rightful place among the various disciplines of knowledge.

 

 

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