Why studying history is important when the future is the focus
From tech to trends to AI threats, how important is studying history anyway when all we can think about is what the future holds?
Why do we study history?
It’s hard not to be consumed with how the future will play out.
How will we cope with climate change? How will we continue to feel human in a deep fake world? Why has 90s fashion made such a big comeback? And when will the robots take over? (Rest assured, ChatGPT did not write this article).
When you think of studying history, you may conjure up an image of Indiana Jones uncovering a relic in an ancient tomb, causing you to wonder why looking into the past is at all relevant. If this is you, maybe it’s time to step outside your temple of doom scrolling.
The study of history is essential to understanding how and why we got to where we are, either as an individual or a society, today.
"Our social and political structures and our local, regional and national identities are formed from stories from our past. The past is never past, but is alive in our present," says history professor Richard Broome, who has dedicated his career to researching and teaching Australian and Indigenous history.
Studying history is more than knowing the date and day of a significant world event so you can pass a history exam. It provides a personal opportunity to exercise your imagination to understand life in another time, place and culture, as well as helping you understand the world as it exists now—and your place in it. Choose to study online and the couch in your own home can become your time portal.
When the future is all too anxiety-inducing, a foundation in history develops creative critical thinking, where not only your imagination and empathy get a work-out, but your research, analysis and communication skills do as well. Learning about the past and developing these skills could be put to solving problems of the future.
According to professional historian Lucy Bracey from Way Back When, “in this current age of information overload, being able to critically analyse and synthesie what we are being shown is a crucial step in becoming an active and informed citizen.”
Why is it important to study history?
Have you ever gone down a history study rabbit hole? Before you know it, you’re hooked and doing everything you can to know all about it. You’re reading books, listening to podcasts, watching movies and more. And that’s because studying history it’s just too fascinating to ignore.
Learning about the past can be enthralling and inspiring, but it's just as empowering, according to Lucy Bracey, as ‘having an understanding of the past."
"The history we share collectively as a society as well as our own heritage helps us to form a sense of connection, identity and belonging. When people feel connected, they also feel valued. And these people are more likely to care about and participate within their own communities," she continues.
Put simply, it’s important to study history because that’s where we can find understanding and a sense of belonging.
What's more, there are many more stories to uncover, voices to be heard and connections to be made. Studying the past connects us to our community, society and to our own story.
“You learn all sorts of incredible tales from the past. Working as a historian I have the privilege of people sharing their stories with me and working with them to share a history they can be proud of," says Lucy.
Plus, history has a way of repeating, so it’s probably best we understand it as much as we can so we’re prepared.
Where can I study history in Australia?
Want to make a career out of your passion for history? Even in this tech-centric world, it's completely possible. Choose from a range of history courses available to study online with leading Australian universities through Open Universities Australia.
Start with a single subject in ancient history, Australian history or modern history to see which field you like most. Then, you might choose to continue on with a Bachelor of Arts, specialising in your specific area of historic passion.
Our history courses page is an ideal place to start. The first step is to enrol. The rest? Soon enough, you'll be working as a historian. It'll be ancient history.