Seeing The Whole Iceberg Of History This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "History is soooo boring." "Who cares about what a bunch of dead guys did anyway?" "We'll never use this stuff in the real world." These are just a few of the gripes about my favorite subject, history. How can the stories of fascinating people and monumental events be boring? Don't you know how much impact a guy like William the Conqueror had on us? Won't you use history of some sort in some way when you elect public and national officials? History is exciting, befuddling, and funny, not to mention helpful in analyzing current events or understanding why a certain group of people act the way they do. Most people fail to see what is great about it because they only look at what's on the surface. Dates and facts are only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more!

Throughout time, people have lived in groups whose customs and beliefs have evolved to give societies their unique qualities. What makes them different from our culture and how they got to be the way they are is quite intriguing. Places like Java have an entirely different way of life than we do. Or perhaps Islamic people may be of particular interest. You may already know that Islam spread quickly throughout the Middle East and North Africa. But why? Other religions like Christianity were persecuted for hundreds of years before being given a chance to flourish. Islam was developed from the idea of one man, Mohammed. He told others about his revelations, and they joined him in a quest to make everyone a Muslim by the sword. Interesting tidbits like these are what make history tick.

We know how a group of people can be fun to learn about, but how about the people in that society? There is so much information about individuals that one could drown in it. And it's not just relevant facts like Washington was our first president, it's also trivial sidelights like Washington cut down his father's cherry tree and later admitted to it. Did you know James Polk had diarrhea? Or that Michelango was left-handed? What's also piquant is what motivated people to do what they did. Why did Nixon feel compelled to participate in criminal misdoings against his opponent in an election he was sure to win?

The development of government, from early democracy in Greece to the writing of the Communist Manifesto, has shaped the world. Had changes such as the conjuring of democracy not happened, we might be living in a country with oppressive rulers. When people have taken control in government, it is often intriguing to note what resulted from their actions. The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 paved the way for the U.S.S.R., and the signing of the Magna Carta lessened greatly the power of the monarchy. Large-scale events are fascinating to read about. The Industrial Revolution transformed Western civilizations from agrarian to industrial in a relatively quick time. If not for the European discovery of the New World, we Americans wouldn't be where we are now. Learning how certain occurrences affected us now isn't irrelevant, it's fun.

History gets a bum rap because of its methodical memorization of dates. It should be seen as a study of what people have done, why they did it, and how it affects us now. History has enough to offer everyone something to be interested in, and for me, it's not hard to find something. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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toxic.monkey said...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 9:13 am
i love history!
sorry i can't be quiet, just want to remind you of the crusades and the inquisition. not only muslims conquered to spread the faith (often with other reasons behind the official one for both sides...)
one thing i've learned from history classes is that everything in our globalized and connected world affects something or other elsewhere.
 
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