Thinking about history

There is a famous saying by George Santayana, which goes:

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Many students of history get into it because it is quite exciting to find if learning how people who came before us confronted their daily challenges would help us in leading our lives in today’s world. There is also a very interesting discipline called applied history which studies history to apply it as analogs when analyzing present-day scenarios.

Karl Marx said:

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

When thinking about history, it is quite tempting to apply it as a template to current (and, even future) events. However, as with all studies of human beings, it is difficult to accurately predict or analyze things or find historical parallels. Most times, using history as a template turns out to be a mistake. Human beings and nature itself, it turns out, are more complicated than that.

In spite of this, I find studying history to be refreshing because no matter how the circumstances have changed, human beings still remain human beings and it is just plain fascinating to learn how our ancestors lived and dealt with their problems.