Why Study History

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In the passage Why Study History written by William H. McNeill, the most important statement is “Historical knowledge is no more and no less than carefully and critically constructed collective memory”. McNeill believes that history can both make us wiser when we are making our public choices and more richly human in our private lives. Sterns, the author of our textbook- World Civilizations, the Global Experience, has the same statement in the preface of the book. He states that “world history explores the human past around the globe, to help us understand the world we live in today” (xviii). Many students do not understand why do people need to care and learn about the knowledge of the past. I sometimes hear people complaining, “What is done is done. Why cannot we just let it go? Why do we have to study history?” In Why Study History written by Sterns, he provides six reasons for students to study history. Consequently, McNeill and Sterns answer the students’ question perfectly. We learn history because learning about the past help people to understand the present. However, there is also a slight difference between the perspectives of McNeill and Sterns. For McNeill, studying history is more like a process of collecting memories. He believes that ignorance of history is absent or defective collective memory. People should study history because people will lose their identities without collective memories. Contrary to his belief, Sterns view history more as some serious facts. Sterns encourage people to study history so people can get actual knowledge from it. People can learn lessons from history and use them in real life. Studying history provides people practical knowledge and reality. All in all, even though McNeill and Sterns have some different perspectives, both of them believe that people study history to serve the present better. For this reason, they both believe that studying history is a must.
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