Musings for a responsible society




Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my life...in vain!
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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The beginning of real 'history'? The discipline to the public domain


In 1989 Francis Fukuyama, the renowned American political scientist asked a question: ‘The End of History?’ That was an article written by him as he thought that the humanity’s socio-cultural revolution was going to end with the spread of the institution of liberal democracy across the world. Later, he expanded the thought with sufficient substance and a lot of substantiation in his book ‘The End of History and the Last Man’ in 1992. After the end of the cold war and the fall of Berlin Wall, he said that there was unprecedented homogeneity in the way powers are established and sustained. Though the world order is not homogeneous as thought by him, the title he used for his work is still relevant in a related context. Let me modify his question. As an academic discipline, whether it is the end of ‘history’?

History is indeed a laboratory where one understands about the human existence, evolution and progress. However, very few people like to read books in history. And much less number of people would like to take history as a subject to study. Naturally, there is a decrease in the number of colleges and universities that offer history at degree or post graduate level.

Sebastian Joseph, my friend and a historian of forest and environment, is very alarmed at the growing disinterest of the people in learning about the past. He narrated this to me. He was travelling by the Chennai Mail from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi. The person who sat next to him was a businessman who asked this wrong question: ‘What is the use of studying history?’ That was when Sebastian told him that he teaches history to students. Sebastian, though felt slightly unpleasant by the question, decided to explain to him the relevance of learning about the past. He also explained how the individuals, organizations and nation-states can learn from the lessons of the past. He also told about him the importance of oral history. The businessman keenly listened to Sebastian and before the end of the journey narrated his own past which Sebastian recorded in his mobile device. What narrated by the businessman was not just about his life and his struggles to reach the top, but also about the socio-economic and political contexts in which he lived and got influenced. He said, ‘I want the new generation to read about my past’. Sebastian transformed him to be a passionate historian by the end of the journey. Yes, history is not just about the kings and kingdoms. It is more about the ordinary people and their extraordinary lives!

The reason for writing this post is my happiness in receiving three non-fiction books as mementos after my talk at three institutions in the last few days. Each one of them gave me a copy that dealt with persons and events of history. After glancing at them I was reassured myself of the contemporary relevance of history and its regained popularity. First book is biographical, second one is eventful and the third provides a descriptive account of history as people thought about. I find these books prominently kept in many leading book stalls and people do buy them. This shows that history as a discipline has come out of the classrooms to the public domain. In universities we are forced to read the ‘prescribed history’. But we get to know about the ‘real history’ when we read books from the ‘open source’ thanks to the efforts of various publishers to showcase the works of scholars with different perspectives.


Here are those books:


(To read reviews and buy CLICK HERE)

                                                             (Read an objective review HERE)
                                                           

                                                             (You can check the book HERE)


                                                            © Sibichen K Mathew                                              
Views are personal

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2 comments:

  1. Wow lovely gifts you got there! I often get the same question from my students,why should we study history and I try my best to tell them ,sometimes I see change in mind-sets,sometimes I am not so successful. Could totally relate to your posts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Nima. Glad that you could motivate your students to learn history.

    ReplyDelete

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