Why I Read History

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2 Responses

  1. Bruce says:

    Nate, great post. My own view of history is that it provides a framework for understanding, a conceptual scheme that makes our present and our future more comprehensible. You definitely need “strong timbers,” to continue the metaphor, to make a good structure. But you also need someone who can imagine an overall blueprint. I see local studies as the timbers, and more general histories as the blueprint. Both are necessary. But given the increasing pressure in the discipline in recent years toward specialization, I worry that too many timbers are being produced and not enough blueprints. There’s only so many small-town studies that are useful before a “grand theory” is needed to tie them all together and give them significance.

  2. Jeremy says:

    A few years ago, I experienced what you’re talking about. I took a course in Texas history in which we were required to write a paper about the history of a Texas county of our choice. The class was small enough that I picked the county I grew up in. Despite eighteen years here, I had only a general understanding of the city’s history and no idea of the particulars. After researching and writing the paper, I wanted to come back home and walk the streets, identifying landmarks. Before the paper, I had no loyalty to the city beyond my family; now I consider myself a native son.