In recent times, there has been a tendency to neglect the study of history, especially in India. It is said that history is a mere record of past events, and hence it is useless to waste time over it. As a result of this prejudice, the number of students offering history in colleges and universities has sharply dwindled. But the study of history is very important. Its importance was realized by the well knows essayist Bacon when he said; “History makes man wise”. Gandhiji considered history even more important than freedom and said, “Let a country lose its freedom, but not lose its history.” This is so because the lessons of history are very valuable.
The prejudice against history arises from a wrong notion of the function of history. It is generally supposed that history is a mere record of past events- of the wars, victories, and treaties of the past. Carlyle, the famous English writer, though that history is but the biography of great man. Nothing can be more wrong that all such conceptions of history. History is not merely the record of the doings of great men; it is not a mere string or catalogue of events. It is the story of the common man, of his struggles and achievements. It embraces all activities of man- religious, political, social literary and economic. Its field is vast and its value and significance is equally great.
First of all history should be studied because it is fascinating subject. It has been said that, “facts are stranger that fiction”, and the facts of history are often as interesting as a novel or a drama. History studies mankind, and man Is the most interesting study for man. It is history which tells use of the earth was a spinning ball of fire, fragment of the sun. Then it solidified and gradually become cooler and cooler> Then life appeared, there emerged four footed animals of grand size. They were followed by the apes, the remote ancestors of man.
The primitive man was hairy and naked. He wandered about the woods in groups, and hunted and lived very much like animals, gradually, largely as a result of chance, he could light a fire. This was an important step forward in the history of human civilization. The next step came when he learnt cultivation. Such is the romance of man’s past, and it is certainly an absorbing subject of study.
History must be studied for its many valuable lessons. Its study increases our understanding our customs and institutions. It teaches what were the causes which resulted is the growth of particular institutions and what are their advantages. For example, it is through the study of history that we can proper perspective and realizes that caste system. We can’t judge it in a proper perspective and realize that caste system is an economic and not religious institution. In grew of economic reasons and no religious sanctity attaches to any one of the castes. It should be changed with the change of times.
Thus the study of history gives us understanding and judgment, and makes it possible for us to introduce reforms wisely. It is corrective to many of our prejudices. Similarly, a study o the history of other countries would give us a better understanding of their cultures and ways of life. It would make us realize that essential and basically all humanity is one. It can promote better understanding among the nations of the world, and can serve the cause of world peace. It removes hatred and promotes love and sympathy.
The study of history teaches us the less of courage, persistence and hope. It soothes consoles and strengthens. Man may be weak a puny, but during the course of ages he has struggled against heavy odds and marched ahead. He as faced disaster, wars revolutions but still he has progressed. His struggle has often been long and bitter, but he persisted and so won in the long run. The study of history reveals to us the heroism of his soul which has enabled him to achieve so much in various fields. Man need not despair. He is, not doubt, faced with insurmountable difficulties, but he is bound to overcome them in long run as he has always, done in the past.
The study of history makes man wise. It has been said that history never repeats itself. This is true in only as much as no two events are ever the same or identical. What has happened before will not happen again exactly in the same way. But in another sense the lesson which we learn from history is “history ever repeats itself”, and similar causes would have similar results. Thus in the past, internal disunity always resulted in the loss of India’s freedom. It is certain, if Indians quarrel among themselves, if there are communal or linguistic disturbances, the country is bound to lose its freedom in the future also. Therefore we must be vigilant and stand united.
Similarly, there have been two destructive wars in the 20th century. Both of them were accused by nationalists run mad. History teaches us that nationalism is good only within limits, it should mean only love of ones own country, and not hatred for other countries. When it grows aggressive, the result is war and destruction. Thus the study of history warns us against the evils of nationalism. Similarly, it teaches us that tyranny and oppression result in revolutions and the overthrow of the tyrant. History, thus, enables us to foresee future events.
Such are the lessons of history. That is why great importance is attached to its study in foreign countries. Great leaders and statesmen have always been students of history. Pt. Nehru was a great historian, so his understanding of the problems of the world was so correct. It was for this reason that he could lead effectively not only own country, but also the whole world. Let us, in India, not neglect the study of this subject.