Reflection on History

What is history? From wikipedia, we can easily find a definition of history:

History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events.

I think this is a good definition because it shows us the nature of history. It’s not only about what happened, but also about how it be presented to people. In Chinese standard, history should be recorded objectively. That is, the task of historical records is to present what had happened at a certain time or in a certain period. All the historical material should be real and tested. They cannot contain the writters’ opinion or attitude. They are the pure history. But the way people learn history can vary. One historical events can be explained in completely opposite ways. For example, the communist movement in 20th century, are evaluted exactly the opposite in China and the U.S. For many  American, the communist movement is somewhat like terrorism. The federal government, espicially when it is under control of Eisenhower, is hostile to communism. So there is no doubt for communism to be described as evil. But in China, people are told communism is the only way to achieve a happy life. There was a big conflict between China and the U.S. in Korea in 1950s. Of course, the two countries give out diametrically opposite description in history books. Although the war happened in the way it happened, government can use different ways of propaganda to teach the people history of the war. I think I only need to introduce what is in China’s history book. What we learnt is that we were helping North Korean to risist the invasion from imperialist countries. How the history be taught can affect people greatly. So how the history be presented is so important, even more important than what it is in fact. In the textbook, teh author also set many examples, such as Kashmir problem and the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Every country just argue for their own. It is hard to say who is right or wrong, but it is a reflection of how complex history is.

In the textbook, the author focused on how history can affect people. Why we need to learn history? A famous Chinses saying might be the answer: 前事不忘,后事之师. In English, it means if you understand the history, you are a wise man and can foretell the future. History always has huge influence on us, no matter it is a nation history or a family history. Sometimes, it is similar with tradition. Stories of heroes can motivate many people; Sense of national pride can help a nation rise; Glorious family tradition can encourage children to reach the top. I believe the power of history is so great that people can gain a lot of strength from that. So it is important to choose what kind of history should be remembered. In the text book, the author explained “absent history”:

Absence  history, of course, does not mean people didn’t exist. …… One important way this happens is when government forbid access to documents that would give us better insight into the past.

That’s happening all over the world. We learn just the selected part of history. I don’t know if it is right to forbid some history, but I oppose it. I think people can decide what to be remembered by themselves. We don’t need the government to make a decision for us. I hope there is one day that people can read the history freely.




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