The purposes and uses of history, with various examples including Marx and john Tosh etc

Essay by vivHigh School, 12th gradeA+, February 2005

download word file, 3 pages 5.0

History can be utilised as a guidance of social behaviour, education, a verification of self-identity, a means of understanding the development of present society, an indication of human potential and providing cultural context to society. However, the argument also exists that there is no useful purpose for history. By contrasting the perceptions of history and its function, a concept of the uses of history can be derived.

The historian John Tosh claims that 'history tells us most of what we need to know about the future'. The idea that history can educate humans is reinforced by believers of God and the Bible, where the Ten Commandments provide a guideline on how life should be lived. Through retelling events passed and the people within these events, a parameter is drawn on human behaviour. For example, Eugene Khoo, a history student, relates: 'Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for human sins.

In making this ultimate sacrifice and through his behaviour on Earth, he is the ideal person. Although humans can never be perfect, we can strive to be perfect and good by learning from example.' In this sense, history is able to provide answers on how to live for the future by governing social behaviour.

Another aspect of history is historical materialism, where 'Marx interpreted human history as a progression from lower to higher forms of production', according to Tosh. Marx himself goes further to explain: 'It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness'1. This theory was apparent during the Industrial Revolution, where new technologies and innovations dramatically improved e.g. use of steel and iron instead of wood and steam engines and power replacing coal-based engines. The requirements for maximized efficiency within society during the...