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History—Should We Trust It?

History—Should We Trust It?

 History—Should We Trust It?

“A knowledge of history brings . . . a feeling that we are part of a fellowship that runs through the ages from long before our birth to long after our death.”—A COMPANION TO THE STUDY OF HISTORY, BY MICHAEL STANFORD.

TO LIVE without history is to live without a form of memory. Without history you, your family, your tribe, or even your nation would seem to be without roots, without a past. The present would seem to have no foundation and little if any meaning.

History can be a vast reservoir of lessons for life. It can help us avoid falling into the same old pitfalls time and again. As one philosopher asserted, people who forget about the past are condemned to repeat it. Being familiar with history can open our minds to past civilizations, amazing discoveries, fascinating people, and different ways of looking at things.

But since history deals with people and events of long ago, how do we know if it can be trusted? If we are going to learn valuable lessons from history, then obviously these must be based on truth. And when we discover truth, we ought to accept it, even though that may not always be palatable. The past can be like a cactus garden—it has its beauty and its barbs; it can inspire, and it can prick.

In the following articles, we will consider some aspects of history that can help us assess the accuracy of what we read. We will also consider how authentic history can benefit the discerning reader.

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Queen Nefertiti

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What lessons can be learned from history?

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Nefertiti: Ägyptisches Museum der Staatlichen Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin

Border: Photograph taken by courtesy of the British Museum