5 Myths about History that you should never believe

This article talks about the various myths that exist regarding the subject of History. The subject has been misunderstood to a considerable degree over the last several decades in fact. Let us discuss these myths one by one.

When I announced that I was going to study History as the major subject at the undergraduate level, the responses from my family, friends (except that one friend who was also crazy about History) and teachers (except the History teacher of course) were generally negative. My family members especially (including distant relatives) tried to dissuade me. When their attempts to discourage me from studying my favourite subject failed, I could see looks of pity in their eyes. Not much was spoken but a lot was expressed – Will he get a job after all this studying? Will his brain be alright after studying a subject like a History? Frankly, the subject of History is so less understood and so stereotyped that I cannot even call it their fault. Nevertheless, let's look at the myths surrounding this discipline and try to find out the truth about this highly misunderstood subject.

1. History is all about dates

This first myth is probably the most widespread. Every time the subject of History is mentioned, the first thing that comes to our mind is the year when a certain event took place. For example – 'When did the American War of Independence start?' In reality, however, remembering years and dates are not a huge part of History. Yes, you do have to remember the sequences, say, sequences within the stone ages – Palaeolithic, then the Mesolithic and then the Neolithic, etc. But these sequences are not hard to remember either. After a certain point, they just stick in the memory.

History is not so much about dates as it is about processes. One thing leads to another as in an intricately written story. For example, there was the use of iron in the sixth century BCE in the northern plains of India, leading to an increase in agricultural production which in turn led to a surplus that could be traded. It, in turn, led to the growth of trading networks and trading communities and the plethora of other changes that are already well known to any student of History. The final thing that can bust this myth is the fact that in the recently concluded mid-semester examinations in my college, not a single question was about dates!

2. History doesn't have anything to do with real life

It is well known that the realm of history lies in the past. This has led some people to shrug their shoulders and say, 'Why study such a subject which only studies the bygone era? Is studying the past useful at all?' In reality, the past is quite well connected to the past. Everything that we have today is in one way or the other a result of the past, however near or distant. Just think of the music you hear, the religion you follow, the dress you wear. All of these have a past that is interesting to study. Studying history helps in understanding the processes of change and evolution that lead to the present-day life which you and I and all of us are living.

History also has a way of reminding us about our mistakes and ensuring that we do not end up making the same mistakes again. For example, let us take the rise of Hitler in Germany from the 1930s onwards. If we study the background of events like this one, we will be able to identify the conditions which allow a fascist dictator to rise and prevent such an event from happening in the future.

3. History needs pure memory, not logic

This myth is much more subtle, one that is not articulated too loudly, but let us examine this one as well as we move forward. This myth originates from the first one. As there are only dates to remember so there is no use for analytical skills. In reality, this logic is pretty idiotic. We have to remember that much of the past is unknown. As a result, historians have to work like detectives, reconstructing the past based on literary and archaeological evidence. It is only then that a piece of stone or a folksong from the distant past begins to tell a story of its own.

4. History has nothing to do with science subjects

Often we try to separate disciplines and place them in watertight compartments. In some ways, this is a result of the prevailing education system where academic subjects are divided into the streams of science, arts, and commerce. This scheme of division is laughable and masks the interdisciplinary nature of several subjects. Although this division has started to get diluted somewhat in the recent past, the old prejudices remain. In reality, historians have to rely on information derived from several other disciplines. For example, the similarity in the chemical analysis of the composition of Harappan and Omani copper led to the conclusion that Harappans might have 'imported' some of their copper from Oman.

5. Studying History won't provide you with a job

Now get ready for the biggest of them all. This is often articulated, either directly or indirectly that there is no 'scope' in history. To all those who say this, to them, I ask, which subject in the world provides a 100% guarantee of a job? Even the hallowed subject of engineering which was once thought to have plenty of opportunities is now in tatters. Engineers in India are more often than not seen queuing up for bank exams or civil service examinations while a large percentage of them end up in other low paying professions (eg. private school teacher).

And the myth that history doesn't have an opportunity of getting a high paying job is completely untrue. Look at all the professors of government colleges and universities. They are rolling in luxury. And anyway, if you study any subject well, be it Geography, Bengali or Urdu, there will always be opportunities for you. The same goes for History.


Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao04 Oct 2019 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

An excellent article from the author. By reading this article many people will understand how wrong it is to think that History is a waste subject.

History is a connection between the past and the present. Today we are here and whatever we do will have a link with the past and knowing the past is very important.

We talk about Rama and Krishna and it is told that they were here to bring back Dharma on the earth. Is it not history? How many of us have read Ramayana or Bharatha? Are not they part of Indian culture and history?

I also agree with the author that no subject will give you 100% job guarantee. The only probability will be more or less for each subject. In fact, getting a job for the students who passed PG in history are more these days. There will be less number of students who are coming out of university after completing their PG in history. Whatever subject we study if we understand the subject well and if we are on the top, then getting a job related to that subject is very high. That way there are many colleges and universities where there are history departments and they will have many PGs as lecturers. These graduates and postgraduates are also eligible for all the jobs for which other arts graduates and postgraduates are eligible.

Author: Sanjeev Gupta08 Oct 2019 Member Level: Gold   Points : 4

I have never liked history as a subject during my school days. Maybe the reason was the difficulty to learn the events and the sequence of events. But now at the age of 43 years, I feel I missed something in my school. Now I realise that we must study history to know our roots and about the world. How did our civilisation begin? How did the primitive men lead life and survived in tough circumstances? All the answers to these questions we come to know only when we study the past about us.

I agree that there are dim chances of getting the job by doing graduation in History alone. If we are to look through the job perspective, I would not recommend anyone to do graduation in arts.

Author: Wilson K. Mathew05 Nov 2019 Member Level: Gold   Points : 5

History is often created. Many histories do not provide accurate information to the general public, or those who read it. Many religious histories belong to this category. Many of these are not properly validated. Some historians have written history in a slightly twisted way depending on their attitude. It often depends on the interest of religion, caste or ideology he believed in.

Reading and studying history is great fun for those who are interested in it. Reading history is just like reading a story. It is a fact that only those who have more memory and interest can take this subject and succeed. Because there are many years and events of those years that need to be remembered.

Education is not just for the purpose of work. From the perspective of getting a job, we should realize that there are millions of educated people without a job in our country who have learned many other subjects.

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