Does History have a Purpose?

Published 15 Feb 2017

There are multi strata perspectives of history and history without these layers becomes meaningless academic foliage. These layers of history could be defined as perspective and perceptions related to politics, economic, sociology, cultural and religious. Without the intervention or analysis of these subjects and subsequent incorporation and investigation in accordance to these subjects history would be wrongly incepted. Therefore, to understand whether history has a purpose or not it is important to analyze these subjects within the perspective of History as a whole.

The most important of these subjects relating to history is political science. It is that prism in academic studies that helps us to break down the apparent conflicts and contribution of history and would be extremely important to understand the purpose of history or rather its failure of becoming a purpose. Under the perspective of political science the most important aspect could be termed as War. Fortunately or unfortunately there are many reasons to go to war. The Spanish-American War in 1898 was an unwanted war for the administration here in the United States, but the press and the public were the rallying cry that set the possibilities in motion. This after the start of what is termed as Yellow Journalism brought on by Joseph Pulitzer and William Hearst, both very powerful newspaper publishing magnates.

The precedents for this war included the Spanish treatment of the men, and especially the women, of Cuba and the surrounding islands of the Philippines. President McKinley finally had no choices in the matter as a result of the sinking of the USS Maine. Foreign policy changed dramatically as a result of the consequences of this very short, very significant war that is often forgotten in view of the Civil War. (Deb, 1998) The resulting freedom from tyranny and oppression for the areas of the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico and other small islands surrounding that area caused upheaval in the ranks of those countries considered world powers, and gave the United States a place in that group that has only managed to gain strength over the years since the Spanish-American War of 1898. (Bandura, 1999)

But after all these years is it not true that America continues to declare war and atrocities against different countries with formulated justice principals that are virtually the cause of the attacks or causes made by these countries like Iraq or Afghanistan. Compared to US these are minnow nations and at a point of time these were well nourished by the US Agencies. (Lamb, 2006) But still there were wars against these nations and like the Spanish American war these wars were also well fed by the media. In a way the media created demons out of goblins, goblins that were virtually tamed at a point of time. This is how history points out a point to be noted and ultimately that note is never taken care of and same mistake is repeated.

Another such incident was the great depression. Under the economic perspective it could be mentioned that the decade leading up to the stock market crash of 1929 and the following Great Depression is typically remembered as one of great prosperity; everybody, it seemed, was getting wealthier. While the rich added to their riches, even the working class was beginning to earn a little bit of money to put away. The middle class was inching closer to luxury with the money it had made in investment markets. All signs were pointing up. It was precisely this shared spirit of unbridled optimism, however, that led to the crash and the subsequent depression; the Thirties were particularly horrific specifically because few, in their boom-era delirium, had foreseen that the wave, so long cresting, must eventually break. (Kar. 2006)

It can be agued that we have taken lessons from this incident and never in the history was such fate repeated under strict government supervision. It is true that the learning of history, particularly among economists, proved the value of history itself on the long run. In this context it can be said that history is basically backed by a purpose and that purpose is to set a principal of caution based on past incidents but the problem lies in the narrow usage of this purpose and the inability to use it in the greater scale. Therefore purposeful usage of the subject becomes irrelevant amidst the Himalayan blunders that are being affecting the greater aspect of life continuously which could have been easily avoided is there would have been a true implicated purpose of history.

Again, there are numerous examples where it can be shown that there is no definite purpose of history at all. If religion is to be taken into account we would see that the same principals of peace are regularly broken over the period of ages in the religion and this stands true for almost every religion in every state. For example, in recent times the most popular notion about alternative religions is that in rejection of Christianity the most important feature lays in the success or formulation of alternative Spiritualities. (Lamb, 2004)

But the truth is because alternative Spiritualities like Hinduism is governed by its own rights and rituals not to speak about philosophy. These details of Hinduism were long formed and shaped and established well before the advent of Christianity. As a result, it would be very wrong to ascertain that these alternative Spiritualities are causing a sense of rejection towards Christianity. One interesting point could be put forward in this regard. A Hindu or a Taoist is a born Hindu or a Taoist and there are no measures or proceedings by which there can be any form of conversion of religion because the basic concept of religion or religious belief is not present in these concepts unlike Islam or Christianity. Apparently, Buddhism follows a process of conversion but the main difference in it lies in the fact that this conversion is more of a personal transaction from household materialist world to a transmission into unearthly spirituality. It should be noted that according to Buddhism there is no proof or existence of God or any supreme being. (King, 2001)

If anyone mistakes this philosophy as an alternate or conflicting with Christianity it would be very improper perception. Siddhartha or Buddha (the Buddha means ‘one who is knowledgeable’ and not ‘the enlightened one’) (Border, 2002) formulated a theory which was taken into account as a school of thought among the various Hindu school of thoughts. This is not about conflict but merely yet another thought process. So there is no reason Christianity would regard alternative Spiritualities as any different. (Barkowitz, 1993) Thus it can be easily seen that a wrong perception is created out of nothing and this is a trend that has its roots at least from the time of Pharaohs or even more. Unlimited lives had been lost on this regard and yet history keeps on repeating itself. Then what is the point of learning history if there is no materialistic purpose at all? (Anand, 2006)

But positive sides also arise from the ashes of failures and this true in enumerating the purpose of history too. As an example the best possible subject would be the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and 1980’s as this would serve as the conceptual and strategic model of the main objective. Alongside, variations in definitions of social and racial justice and strategy could identify the chain equity of the terms Justice, Equality and Liberty and the underlying tension within them. The impact of the Civil Rights Movement on other social movements in all over the world speaks the same truth and the truth is positive indeed. This way, the purpose of history as a positive understanding yielded faith and courage within the workers of the movements. Moreover enumerating the consequences of these movements with the incorporation of the successes and failures modes of the Civil Rights Movement and all these could be examined in detail but the fact remains that the second half of the 20th Century saw the rebirth of the terms through the renewed ideas of Justice, Equality and Liberty and this is what it is meant by having a purpose of history where these workers took up the baton left by social workers and reformers beyond the centuries.

Thus in the conclusion it can be mentioned that though it is often said that “history repeats itself” but the fact is the nations take no lessons from the history at all and committees the same mistake over and over again. Thus practically there is no purpose of history at all. It is commonly said that “the fundamental teaching of history is that it teaches nothing at all”. It is a great pity that a subject that could have contributed in the betterment of the future of the world by so much and by so many means is regarded as just another academic discussion with no practical implementation at all. (Fletcher, 2003) But the main concern of this discussion could be referred to as a virtual stalemate because though there are multiple examples of failure of history as a teacher it could also be mentioned that Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and 1980’s compels us to believe in the teachings of history and we are induced to believe in the goodness of affairs that is learnt from the education of history and this is the purpose of history. It has been mentioned with high notes that there are failures or the argument is basically undecided but at the end point it would only be logical to state that we are living in a positive world and therefore it is evident that we should only look at the positive side of the affairs and believe in history as an able teacher and that should be considered as the purpose of learning history.


  • Anand, V; (2006); The Process of Thought and Perception; HDT Ltd. 55.
  • Bandura, A. (1999). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Ciffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall Inc. 35
  • Deb, J; (2006); Introduction to US History; ABP Ltd. 96
  • Deb, S; (1998); Evaluation of Strategic techniques; ABP Ltd. 321-322
  • Fletcher, R; (2003); Beliefs and Knowledge: Believing and Knowing; Howard & Price. 276
  • Kar, P; (2006); History of History and related application of History; Dasgupta & Chatterjee. 241
  • Lamb, Davis; (2004); Cult to Culture: The Development of Civilization on the Strategic Strata; National Book Trust. 32
  • Lamb, Susan R; (2006); Justifications of Terrorism; Curtley-Vosges. 29
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