Defining History

To me, history is defined most accurately and most poetically by R.G. Collingwood.

He states:

“History is for human self-knowledge. Knowing yourself means knowing, first, what it is to be a person; secondly, knowing what it is to be the kind of person you are; and thirdly, knowing what it is to be the person you are and nobody else is. Knowing yourself means knowing what you can do; and since nobody knows what they can do until they try, the only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.” R. G. Collingwood

If history is meant to serve as our understanding of the past, I cannot think of a more eloquent way to phrase this than to again repeat Collingwood’s description of history as a something “for human self-knowledge.” We each have multiple histories, related to who we are within our country, within our state, within our city, within our community, within our family, and within ourselves. History is an all-encompassing thing that allows for all other aspects of ourselves to grow.

From where I stand, history is something that not only defines who we are, but what we will become. As Collingwood states, “the only clue to what man can do is what man has done.” History can be used to define who we are as individuals, as family members, as community members, as citizens and as a species on our planet and beyond. Understanding history, of both ourselves and others, is so vital to the evolution of time and space. This is why I define history as Collingwood does, as a beacon for understanding what we as a people have accomplished, and therefore who we are today. In addition to this, I like to tack on the notion that not only is history how we understand the past and the present, but how we gauge what direction to look into for the future as well.

To follow up on my notion that history is what defines us today, I looked into the website History Bizarre and explored some of the posts regarding fashion. I specifically focused on two entries regarding women’s fashion from long ago.

Find screenshots (with links) to these two entries below:

I found these two entries to be very interesting as they both discuss misconceptions in regard to fashion for their respective time periods. This is a very interesting way to share a piece of history, and I appreciate that they not only educating viewers on new information, but correcting misinformation as well. The idea of highlighting common misconceptions surround a topic like fashion or politics could be very interesting and a unique way of using a historical lens to educate someone on a new topic!

One thought on “Defining History

  1. Excellent job integrating a quote in and expanding upon said quote to explain your definition of history (do not forget to reference where they quote came from though). I additionally like how you transition between the quote and your understanding of what defines history into how you can apply that definition to the exploration of the topics.

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