History is fundamental to our understanding of the world around us. Through the study of history, we can discover why the world is as it presently exists: our world in its current state is a direct result of the developments and events of the past. Every action taken in the past, every idea and concept thought of and acted upon, every war and treaty, every great leader and villain has contributed to the collective sum of developments which have molded our world. History is the build-up of actions taken in the past, and as we go about our lives in the present we contribute to that accumulation. Our choices today will directly affect the future, just as the choices of the past directly affect our present. We are, right now, making the history of the future.
Thus, history is an immensely important subject to study and understand. It provides the answers to why the world is like it is. An inaccurate understanding of the past, therefore, will present the incorrect answers as to why the world is like it is now. This is incredibly important: having the incorrect answer to why the world exists as it does presently means that the consequences of choices made in the past, or the reality of the development of the past, will be lost and unknown. This means that, as we move forward into the future, we will be unable to truly understand our own place in history and the nature of the changing world around us. Further, incorrect readings of the past can lend support to ideas or beliefs which don’t actually have a historical basis. Such misinformation about the past can provide people inaccurate assumptions about the world around them.
It is lamentable, then, that history is so often either lost, deliberately misconstrued, misunderstood or misinterpreted, or entirely fictitious. Much of our understanding of history, and the stories presented to us, do not accurately describe actual events in the past. We therefore often cannot truly understand the nature of the world around us. Much of early recorded history is rife in inaccuracy, legend, and fable. This, of course, is a result of the nature of early human civilization: writing was uncommon and in its early stages of development, history was told through word of mouth and legend, and such a medium for the recording and telling of history easily allows for the true history to be changed, altered, and reinterpreted. Yet history has also been deliberately falsified to provide support or justification for various positions or beliefs. As with any other type of knowledge, history directly influences and shapes our perception of the world, our beliefs, and our ideas. Because of this, the telling of history can be a powerful tool to provide justification for some concepts or ideas, and rewriting history can discredit others.
There are many examples of these inaccurate histories, and some of them are quite prolific and influential in the way various societies and civilizations perceived the world. These inaccurate stories of history range from legends and myths about the origins of civilizations and societies, such as the legendary founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus, sons of Mars, which gave the Romans a perception of their civilization as being divinely inspired and thus destined to greatness, to stories about great events in a countries past, such as Paul Revere’s supposed ride to warn the colonists that the British ‘were coming’ which, in reality, never happened but created patriotic fervor amongst American citizens. Further inaccurate histories can be seen across theology, as almost every system of religion claims to be the sole descendents and adherents of the one true god or gods. Not every religion can correctly claim to be the only true faith, and thus the histories that each present must somehow be falsified.
As students and scholars of history, we must thus pick out what we discern to be the most reliable sources of history, and be skeptical towards all claims and stories which attempt to tell the past. History is an immensely important subject which contributes very heavily towards our understanding of the present, and as such it is vital that we understand it as correctly and completely as possible. The misconceptions and misinformation about the past which is prolific in modern times lends support to inaccurate understanding of our present world, but hopefully the diligent study of and reporting on accurate and correct accounts of the past will help us finally understand the true nature of our here and now.