Wednesday, May 01, 2024



That's a great quotation, because of the innate tension in it. i.e. Is he saying that we are still right to try to learn from history, or rather that it's all a bit of a wasted effort?

The superficially valid notion that history continues because of our consistent failure to 'read' the codified lessons that it contains has become a rather persistent, 'viral', misapprehension in modern culture. 
It's kind of bound up with the western liberal fantasy that history might somehow be rationalised away, like pretty much everything else we find disagreeable. This fallacy peaked with Fukuyama's "end of history" proclamation at the end of the Cold War.

What the dogged rationalists don't want to admit is that history is at least partially a set of recurring patterns which happen to us whether we like it or not. Like its constituent human agents themselves, it has a sort of innate 'biological' truth which cannot be imagined away.

I think historians of earlier periods understand this a little better than their modern-specialising equivalents. The first 500 years or so AD saw the formation of some of the key patterns which now affect everyone. In simple terms, the geopolitics of today are still driven by the impulses that drove the political-religious conflicts of that period: Catholic Rome, Orthodox Byzantium, Islamic Baghdad. This kind of history is not a class where it matters much whether one attends or skips. It's deep and informs the 'subconscious' of civilisations. 



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