Saturday, February 18, 2006

Knowledge of History

This article by Anthony O'Hear in The Telegraph presents the normal argument for studying history: that without knowledge of where things began, it is much more difficult to deal with their consequences.

One small and topical example of this:

The Crusades were not, as is often implied by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, a unique moment of anti-Islamic aggression. They were actually but one blip in the astonishing growth of Islamic empires in Europe and elsewhere, from the time of Mohammed onwards, right up to 1683 when the Turks were turned back from the gates of Vienna and 1686 when they were expelled from Budapest.
Just to ram home the point: the Arab invasions began in 634 with the conquest of Palestine and Syria; the First Crusade occurred in 1095-1099, by which time Spain had been in Arab hands for over three and a half centuries. The Crusades were a response to Muslim aggression, and not some uniquely Western will to power and dominance.
O'Hear is especially worried with regard to classical history because all of Europe's greatest periods of achievement coincide with a revival or re-evaluation of Rome and Greece. Of course, it is much easier to do Cultural Studies, which confer on you, without very much effort on your part, not only the pleasure of flip dismissals of everything around you, but an irresistible aura of self-righteousness to go with it.

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