Lessons from the Past

What History Has Taught and Has Yet to Teach

History can be defined as knowledge passed down by previous generations and civilizations over millennia. Recorded history is the only way future generations can learn about what came before them. Notably, history is not just confined to books and stone tablets; instead, it can be personal, familial, national, or global. It is interesting in that there is nothing anyone can do to influence past events. Evens so, some will argue that the past is just the past and has no bearing on future events. These people fail to understand the immensity of what history has and the potential to teach those who bother to learn from it. Human beings began to record history as soon as they could reason, and evidence of this has been found recorded on cave walls, stone tablets, scrolls, and books. Since its conception, the human race has learned from history and has been able to improve on solid technical principles and technology. There is evidence that the human race has learned considering the fact that it has advanced on technology, improved on solid technical principles, and learned from past mistakes.

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History has enabled technological advancements in the present world. Through historical data and information recorded by early humans, ideas to advance and build up better technology have been made easier. A complete lack of history would essentially mean that no one would know anything except their experience. Hart quotes that only fools learn from experience and that it is wiser to learn from other people’s experiences (Hart, 2015, p.7). On its own, the statement is debatable in some respects, and holds certain percentages of truth. Presently, the world has advanced in technology. The internet has been invented and people are now able to communicate beyond borders. Additionally, machines have been generated to make work easier in every sector. Evidently, history has made it possible for certain technological advancements.

The human race has been able to solve and complete solid technical principles. For examples, some of the most important elements of daily life can be credited to past generations and civilizations. The fire that is presently used in cooking and even combustion was invented some time back, thanks to history. Through recording and passing down of the recorded information, subsequent generations were able to improve on methods to make fire. From the spindle and fireboard to flint, to matchsticks today and gas lighters, the human race built on the concept of fire and made it easier and more accessible than before (Hart 20). Another good example is that of the wheel. It is an invention that can only be described as masterful. With boundless applications, the wheel is truly a pillar of modern civilization, despite the fact that it was conceived thousands of years ago. Indeed, humanity has benefited from history, not because modern man is incapable of inventing new things, but because most of these things had already been invented. 

Over time, the human race researches and continues to find evidence for its propensity to learn from history willingly or unintentionally. The human race faces challenges in cases of conflict and destruction. In such a situation, the learning process seems to slow down significantly. War and conflict are some of the most consistent themes throughout human history. However, rather than scattering, the theme continues to recur and intensify over time. As Sherry (2011) puts it, history is largely a story of catastrophes, but most of these have little to no effect on the future (p. 1). In recent years, no single country has been involved in more wars than the United States of America. Through learning history, we get to understand the causes of conflicts in the earlier years as well as the strategies used to solve them. 

Some years back, the former president of the United States of America, George W. Bush, waged war on Iraq in response to the merciless killing of the people in the 9 September 2011 attack. These are some of the points in history that may be considered past mistakes and that people can get to learn from them. Through the study of History, we get to learn that Most of the al-Qaida operatives started as volunteer fighters (Hegghamme 2). In failing to understand that conflict would only breed more conflict, the former president potentially helped create more terrorist and rebel factions in the Arab world. For instance, the Iraq war had the highest number of volunteer fighters since the Afghan war, which America also participated in. From reading the history of the United States, human beings can conclude that the United States created several instances of tension, conflict, and war all over the Arab parts of the world.  The events of 9/11 for example, are part of American history that cannot be forgotten and should serve as a significant point in history from which several lessons could be learned.

History serves as a source of knowledge and a point of reference for both individuals, as well as, nations. If one looks close enough, they can learn concepts have the potential to take their future in a better direction. However, history is impartial and offers only information. What one chooses to learn or not to learn from the information provided is solely up to them. Nevertheless, history and all of its events, even the seemingly minuscule, should be used as opportunities to learn. Even those who seem unbothered by history and learning from it will find they have probably already taken a lesson or two from the past. Overall, perhaps the most recurrent lesson of history is that it always repeats itself, an affirmation that there is always something new to learn from past events. 


Fergeson, N. (2014). America’s “Oh Sh*t” Moment, In G. Muller, Issues Across the Disciplines (12th ed., pp. 291-295). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hart, L. (2015). Why don’t we learn from history?. , .. Lulu Press, Inc.

Hegghammer, T. (2010). The Rise of Muslim Foreign Fighters: Islam and the Globalization of Jihad. International Security35(3), 53-94. doi: 10.1162/isec_a_00023

Hoagland, E. (2014). 1776 and All That: America after September 11. In G. Muller, Issues Across the Disciplines (12th ed., pp. 297- 299). New York: McGraw-Hill.Sherry, M. (2011). A War “ Unlike any Other ” ?: America and the World since September 11. OAH Magazine Of History, (3), 9-13.

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