Historical Awareness and Uses of History

Historical Awareness and Uses of History

In the chapter one, Historical Accuracy, in the book, The Pursuit of History, author John Tosh explores the basics of historical accuracy and its relationship with social memory. Tosh argues that historical awareness does not equal social memory but that social memory is an important component in understanding historical accuracy. To Tosh, Social memory is a product of a collective memory that paints a picture of the past and justifies the future in each society. Memory is essential in understanding societies, both small and large because it identifies a society’s political identity. Tosh expresses the importance of historians to recognize that past events must be respected to the time in which they took place. For historicists, they must acknowledge three key principles that are all related to each other. The first is recognizing separations in time, then ensuring that the context must stay in said time period, and that the relationships between events over time gain their significance. However, another important note is that while historians should try to keep everything in its respected time periods, historians cannot fully prevent themselves entering in their own period in their analyzation processes.

 

In chapter two, the Uses of History, Tosh continues to explore the different reasons why we study history. One of the first reasons is metahistory, which is a rigid interpretation of history. The next thought is the: “nothing can be learned from history” mindset. (27) Tosh argues that with this approach to history, it is dismissed as not a necessity to guiding the future or even understanding the present. Obviously, neither of these reasons are highly supported by historians. Instead, reasons like historical differences which can involve understanding alternate societies and times, remembering events in recent past, and controlling the understanding of present situations are more commonly accepted. Through this, historians can find different ways to interpret, analyze, and understand different historical contexts. Another important reason supported by historians is historical context itself. Historical context prevents human history to be studied in a way that cannot limit understanding complexities of human development and societies. This allows open thought and encourages against the common idea that history repeats itself. The next reason is the historical process which historians use to better understand our world, which is connecting in political culture. Tosh then goes on to explain that the job of a historian is to seek the relevance of history. This requires, historical awareness, perspective, and explanation.

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