The Study of History

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The Study of History History is, in essence, the study of ourselves. Although we look back and examine the actions and behaviors of other people in another time and place, we are really looking back at our own history, almost as though we are looking at an old family photo album. Everything that has come before us has led up to the current time of our lives. It is all built upon the base that others prepared for us. So, in that context, it is imperative that we understand, as much as humanly possible, why things in the past happened the way they did. Just as importantly, we must be able to understand the actions of those placed in that particular moment in history. Often it is difficult to understand, why they have behaved the way they have. For instance, why would so many people, who presumably were decent people in every other way, actively participate or turn a blind eye to the injustice of slavery? How could so many people in Nazi Germany have silently allowed the Holocaust to continue? Or even how could the Supreme Court of the United States have ruled, in the Dred Scott case, that blacks could never be considered United States citizens, even if they were free (Finkelman, 1997, p.2)? To understand questions such as this, it is important to put the actions of historical figures in the context of their time. It is impossible to understand actions in isolation, so the societal norms of the period must be studied as well. In the case of slavery, it had long been held as
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