How We Learn About History And How It Changes Essay

Length: 6 pages Subject: Music Type: Essay Paper: #68244376 Related Topics: Archeology, Bath, Ancient Egypt, African History
Excerpt from Essay :

¶ … Immersion in Written History

One of the most compelling aspects of history is that it is always being revised and updated as new information is added to old, some points are discarded by historians while others are elevated as significant. Cultures and periods, generations and ages, each has their own unique take on history, and each take tells something of the time in which that perspective was held. The way one interprets history today says something about the perspective and values of this age. It says just as much about the present (and sometimes more) as it does about the past. How we find out about history is through constant revision, study, research, constant looks at the past, at the people and cultures that shaped ideas and actions. How this knowledge impacts us in our own day depends on whether we embrace it or reject it.

For myself, I choose to embrace it so as to learn from it and understand myself more fully. I use it to look ahead as well, to see what the future has in store as a result of what came before. What is past is prologue to our future and so if we look to history, however it has been composed in all its different and diverse manifestations, we can see glimpses of ourselves and what we are likely to do as a result, as a consequence of the way the world was made prior to our existence. Therefore, by studying about the past of Africa, we can better see Africa today by using all the different perspectives as guide posts to help us through a number of issues. In this sense, the future looks bright because we have the light of the past to guide us.

In "Out of Africa" by Spencer Wells, for instance, we see how this view of history concentrates on the significant role that Africans made some 50-80,000 years ago, when "Africa saved Homo sapiens from extinction" (1). This is no mean feat and deserves consideration. If Africa was significant then, surely it is significant now. What role does it play in the modern stage? The point of this article, however, is not to stress the importance of Africa in a politicized way but rather to assert that all the diverse peoples of the world are really the same peoples, various cultures springing out of the same seed -- and that that seed has roots in Africa. Therefore, we can all trace our peoples' migrations over the millennia to that wondrous continent so mysterious to us all and yet so vibrant and alive.

It is this vitality that we should appreciate mostly, because through it our ancestors emerged and handed down to us our own vitality, passing on the flame of life. And thanks to the continent of Africa, life was nourished and allowed to flourish. Yet, unfortunately, that life had to come into conflict with itself -- just as nature appears to be at odds with itself. That precious life which Africa helped to nourish inevitably flamed out into war as men fought one another over things that were dear to them. And in this manner, history became "a bath of blood" as Wilson notes in his article, "Is War Inevitable?" It is a good question and there are arguments that suggest that, yes, it is while others assert that, no, it is not. But with the eternal conflict of good vs. evil apparent throughout history, it is perhaps best just to state that war is a reality and just because we want to wish it away does not mean that it will go away. The reason for this is that "war" exists in all of us, and at some point we give expression to it, whether in our thoughts or actions, whether on a domestic or intentional stage -- it is what happens. Learning from the mistakes that lead to war, however, is something that we can all do in order to be better prepared in the future. So this article is helpful in pointing that out: that just because war has always been around, it does not mean that we must be subject to it or that we cannot do something to stop it.

"The Prehistory of Warfare" essentially makes the same point, however, showing how humans have "been at each others' throats" since the beginning of time and how ancient artifacts such as defensive walls now allow us to realize this even more deeply (42). But the realization should compel us in a way to realize how far we have come (and not come) in terms of


We are still building defensive walls, so to speak, too. We lock our doors at night, put in our security systems, develop insanely huge militaries and plant bases around the world. What is the purpose of all this? There is the profit side of war, but as a culture and society we should not be ruled by profiteers nor by war hawks. That is what this article pushes us to consider by suggesting how far back in history the tendency to make way actually goes: we should look at this and look at ourselves and consider whether we are modern or prehistoric and what the difference means.

At the same time, discoveries in the Near East and compelling us to rethink the way we think about history and ourselves. It was held for a substantial time that cuneiform was the earliest form of written communication, for example, but new discoveries and new theories about the evolution of communication are bringing to light a new possibility and likelihood that this theory is in fact not really the case. This is how our sense of history is formed, however -- by testings and archeological findings. Still, as is the case in "Writing Gets a Rewrite," it is not always possible to be one hundred percent certain about a historical point or evolution and sometimes history gets rewritten by new findings but oftentimes this rewrite only leads to even greater mysteries about what really went on so long ago. For us, it should be a humbling moment to realize that we don't know everything about these ancient peoples and that we are in the dark about a lot of things still. It should remind us that in spite of all our advancements we are in many ways still in a kind of "dark" ages -- but it should also give us hope, because what we have been able to understand about our past is impressive and we should use that knowledge to drive towards an even more impressive feat of being civil and neighborly to one another.

Another example of the humbling finds that historians have made is the fact that ancient Egyptians were able to travel on voyages of roughly 2000 miles by land and sea in their time. This is an amazing feat considering how difficult it is for us today to travel the same distance (by car, rail, plane, ship) -- which is only something we are able to do because so many hands have joined in the process. But if we were left to ourselves, would we be able to do it? Not unless we could lay track, build an engine, refine gas, make wings, or produce a boat. Yet the Egyptians were able to move without the assistance of our modern conveniences. In "Egypt's Lost Fleet" are described the cargo ships of these ancient peoples, which should indicate how so many things have changed and have yet stayed the same: business was important to people back then just as it is today; international commerce was achievable then as now. Technology played a part in establishing trade and "experience" made a lot of difference in how people rose to the top of the chain.

But strength was also a key element in historical movements: for example, there are the "Black Pharaohs" of long ago, when ancient African kings conquered Egypt. There was Piye, for instance, who invaded Egypt in an effort to get that area under control -- to "save it from itself" so to speak (59). Yet this is one story that does not get a lot of press. But history does not wait: it tells the story regardless, through ancient landmarks that stand still, waiting to disclose their secrets to those who want to know. Thus there are the pyramids in the Sudan, which are "greater in number than all of Egypt's" -- yet Egypt is the land known for its pyramids, why (59)? Because that is how the narrative has been spun, and how the tourism industry has developed. In this sense, information and history is commercialized -- but history is ignored, and one can go to the Nubian Desert and see the many pyramids and walk there "unharassed, even alone" (59) considering the…

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