I love history. The two sermons makes it pretty clear I love history. There was a time when I was planning on being a professional historian, assuming that’s a real job, but things went in a different direction. I am frustrated there are so many eras in human history I know nothing about. But that’s me. What about everyone else?
Does anyone have a responsibility to know anything about history? Do you need to be historically acute to be a good person? a good citizen? Those are good questions and they are quite a lot trickier than they look at first. We all know the old saw, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it” by Edmund Burke or, if you prefer George Santayana’s take on it, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” None of us want to be doomed or condemned but is it really that dire? Both Burke and Santayana are talking primarily about the wide sweep of history – kings and queens, battles and armies – but do we really need to know who won the War of 1812? For all of you who don’t like history for whatever reason, the answer is no.
No one needs to know geo-political history. What you need to know is your history.
History is so much more than what you read in a book from the history section of the bookstore. Your history is every bit as important to you as any history, it is more important than knowing what happened to the White House in the War of 1812. It is critical you know your history because it has made you what and who you are.
In case you are wondering. In the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain, British subjects from what is now known as Canada swept down to Washington DC and burned the White House down.