There are numerous lessons that can be learned through studying the history of mankind and the culture of civilizations that have both thrived and failed. There is truth in the concept that history often repeats itself and therefore modern society can know what to expect in many areas of civilization. There is also a comfort in the ability to learn from the mistakes of others in order to prevent recreating the negative outcomes that the previous civilizations endured. If a society will take the time and measures necessary to study the history of other cultures then the lessons that can be learned can allow for advancements rather that the collapse of a civilization. These lessons in history are found in all areas of society and cultural aspects of a civilization including cultural advancements, military and political actions, and religious beliefs and rituals.
According to Kagan (2014) cultural advancements can be found in governmental institutions, legislature, scientific and technological advancements, linguistics, and many other areas that show the priorities and understanding of a given society (pg. 81). Kagan (2014) explains that, beginning with the Greek city-states, the governmental lessons were learned as the transition to bureaucracy became necessary through state holdings.These lessons have helped to shape the modern bodies of government that continue to evolve based on the priorities of a given society. The Greek civilization also found that certain legislature had to be put in place as man was found to need laws and consequences in order to be civilized (pg. 82). Understanding these legal tactics aid in understanding the conflicts of a society. Scientific and technological advancements can aid in modern society as these areas can be studied through what worked and what did not. In this manner, many attempts of advancements can be recreated while omitting the mistakes of the ancestors. Understanding the linguistics of a time period allows historians to better interpret the meanings of the records. Studying these and other areas of a culture teach us that “Man is potent and important, yet he is fallible and mortal, capable of the greatest achievements and the worst crimes” (Kagan, 2014, pg 86). Through this, modern society can examine the scope of mankind.
Studying the military history of a civilization gives insight as to the reasons, types, successes, and failures of the military actions that have preceded modern wars. Military action involves life and death scenarios. The tactics used can determine the outcome of the war and establish the existence or collapse of a civilization. Trial and error attempts will generally result in more errors than successes. Godfrey (2011) notes that it is wise to assume that the opposing military leaders study the historical military actions in order to utilize the errors of those leaders and to avoid repeating those mistakes. Therefore, it is important for a military to do so in order to stay at least equal in knowledge to the enemy (pg. 34). Additionally, it is important to understand why these wars took place in order to reshape foreign policies and potentially avoid future warfare. By recognizing the areas of conflict, it is possible to work towards a less aggressive solution. If the war cannot be avoided, studying the previous wars will give insight as to what to expect from the enemy and therefore offer a greater potential for success (Godfrey, 2011, pg. 34).
Religions are generally based on historical context and therefore can only truly be understood through analyzing the cultural periods during which the religions were established. This assists in both understanding the religious rituals and traditions and the priorities and fears of the civilizations. For example, Christianity continues to flourish today although it is based on the life of a man who lived over 2,000 years ago (Turner, 2014, pg. 30). Studying the historical context of Christianity will allow for members of that faith to better understand the lessons and morals that were being explained within the text of the Bible. Studying the stories within the Bible will allow for historians to understand the society of that time period and the successes and failures of the establishment of the religion and culture of the civilization. Taking this information, religious individuals and historians can learn a great deal about humanity, culture, and ethical values that should carry into modern society. As stated by Turner (2014), “we need memories that will cause us to celebrate and to mourn, to repent and to reform” (pg. 31).
Societies continue to advance through the understanding of the mistakes of the past. Studying history does not establish a direct guarantee that the successes of the past nor avoiding the mistakes will create an unbreakable civilization. However, through understanding the history, one can better understand themselves and their society. Cultures can create a world of greater understanding and empathy. Military actions can be more precise and advanced through the successes and failures of the past. Religions will have more meaning through understanding the establishing civilization. Finally, through understanding where mankind has been, there can be a greater appreciation for how far society has moved forward.
Fortunately, in today’s society, technological advances have made studying history a more approachable reality. Through the printing process, libraries are able to house a vast array of historical information. The introduction of the internet has allowed for shared research and literature to be explored without the restrictions of travel. Specialized media such as websites and television stations bring history directly into the home. However, if the historical site becomes necessary to visit in order to expand upon that information, modernized travel makes that possible.