Each nation of the world has its own past and present. It has been considered significant to discover the way of life of one’s ancestors from the earliest times. The interest in history is scarcely to be explained only by human curiosity. In fact, a person is a product of historical development that goes through certain changes and advances over time. Living without history means to live without some sort of memory. Without history, individuals, families, tribes, and nations have no origins, no past until the present, are deprived of their basis and sense. Western civilization provides a number of events that serve as predictors and lessons for people throughout the world. Therefore, people should learn the stories of the past in order to develop useful skills and form a model for future development of the society.
Benefits of Learning History
Many scientists researched the importance of the teaching of local history in schools. Local history has gained popularity due to the debates on modernization and globalization. In the United States, local history has been included into the curricula of history and social studies almost at every level. According to Aktekin, studying local history helps become aware of various aspects of historical development of the world in which people live (90). Hawkey emphasizes that local history addresses a number of goals: connect the present and the past, motivate students, establish the origins and identity of students (Aktekin 90).
Moreover, studying of history can be useful because it helps break the barriers, which exist between schools and the external world, relates history to other school subjects, forms the understanding of the community and surrounding environment, develops the sense of identity (Aktekin 91-94). Stearns insists that learning history is crucial to individuals and the whole society. The author states that history is useful for understanding societies and people because it provides information about their behavior. The present is caused by the past. Thus, history offers the explanation of various changes in the social development, their reasons, and consequences. The significance of history was studied in the context of religion too. Thus, Garrone states that history plays a crucial role in the shaping of a man (321). The author considers history as a tool for forming the point through which general knowledge can be transferred into the reality (322).
Importance of French Revolution
The understanding of history deals with the concept of revolution. Revolution is considered to be a turning point in progress and evolution. Great revolutions are a fusion of objective realities and conscious creativity. Human mass creates a new social reality and gains a sense of ownership of its own destiny. Revolution takes place in the conditions inherited from the past and based on the thorny experience produced through victories and defeats, spirit of revelation and tragedy. The natural consequence of moral and democratic revolution is a social and intellectual emancipation of the mind. By combining the ideas of humanism and justice with the principles of democracy and popular sovereignty, revolution created the grounds of modern justice, political culture that served as the unifying principle of the civilized world, while maintaining its national, social, and cultural diversity. The French Revolution put questions before mankind, many of which appear to belong to the eternal ones. One of them was the issue of human rights. Having destroyed class privileges and partitions, the revolution proclaimed that men were born and remained free and equal in rights. This became the basis of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
French bourgeois revolution of the late 18th century had the largest progressive significance. It lay primarily in the fact that this revolution put an end to feudalism and absolutism. Active and decisive participation of the masses gave the revolution the breadth and scope that differed it from others. The French Revolution remains a classic example of the complete bourgeois-democratic revolutions. The French Revolution determined the subsequent development of the capitalist way of France and other nations. It shattered the foundations of the feudal-absolutist order and accelerated the development of bourgeois relations in other European countries. Under its direct influence, the bourgeois revolutionary movement appeared in Latin America.
The World Wars’ Significance
Along with revolutions, the war is a constant companion of human history. Almost all societies have resorted to it to resolve external or internal conflicts. The history of mankind is largely the history of wars. The World Wars of the 20th century put world civilization on the brink of death, were an ordeal for mankind, humanistic values, which have been developed throughout its preceding history. At the same time, they were the reflection of fundamental changes that took place in the world, one of the terrible consequences of the process of the development of civilization. The World Wars had an unalterable and drastic influence on mankind history and everyday lives.
The World Wars provided useful lessons for historians and politicians of the modern time. Despite the uniqueness of the crimes of National Socialism, which were fully admitted by the Germans, the second tragedy of the 20th century was the result of the vigilance and blindness of those who participated in the development of the Treaty of Versailles. The Holocaust was a much bigger crime, but the First World War marked the beginning of the European catastrophe. Therefore, it is needed to include the First World War in the historical picture of mankind and take it into consideration in all its relevance. It is important to remember the decades that preceded the First World War as a kind of gray and outstanding prehistoric times. They were decades during which the grounds of modern times were laid. The most important lesson is the fact that diplomacy should be used before force. Certainly, a war cannot always be averted, but it is crucial to make all possible efforts. Another lesson is that every war is unpredictable. It is important to learn history and reasons of the World Wars in order to predict and avoid the possibilities of beginning a new one. One of the main lessons is that the struggle against the danger of war must be waged until the war has not started yet. It should be carried by the collective efforts of peace-loving nations, people, all who cherish peace and freedom. The Second World War was not fatally inevitable. It could have been prevented if the Western countries were not allowed to fatal political mistakes and strategic miscalculations. Certainly, the direct perpetrator of the war was German fascism. Full responsibility for its unleashing was on it. However, the Western countries created the conditions under which the war became reality; through their short-sighted policy of appeasement, the desire to isolate the Soviet Union and direct the expansion to the East. Only after the aggressor had captured almost all of Western Europe, Soviet diplomacy managed to prevent the formation of a single bloc of hostile states and avoid a war on two fronts. This was one of the prerequisites of the anti-Hitler coalition and, ultimately, defeat of the aggressor.
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However, sometimes, it is impossible to avoid conflicts, which lead to wars. In this case, the World Wars can be also useful for learning significant things that help to win. One of such historical lessons refers to the consistency of the military-political and military-strategic activities. It is needed to remember the reason of failure of the political and military leadership to adequately assess the impending threat and prepare the armed forces to repel aggression. Strategic management begins with setting goals and objectives. It is important that the government set clear and specific objectives to the troops that are sent to the war. Another lesson deals with the ability to foresee the looming nature of warfare. When evaluating the character of the war, it is impossible to assume fashionable ideological attitudes, stereotypes, and abstract principles. It is crucial to see something new that it carries. One more lesson teaches to organize the strategic management of the armed forces. Historical experience shows that in times of peace, certain decisions on military-political and strategic direction should be taken. Military cooperation should be carried out not only in relation to the country's economic potential, but also to a realistic assessment of existing military threats.
The tragic records of the Second World War call peoples of the world for vigilance. Even today, violence and terror are policy instruments, despite the fact that democratic states are trying to close eyes on these phenomena. The World Wars demonstrated the ability of the democratic forces of the Earth to unite in the common mortal danger. The main lesson of the World Wars is that the Third World War should not happen because there will be no winners, only ruins of human civilization. Other lessons can serve as examples, but it is enough to make a general conclusion that humanity can no longer allow such collective suicide as World Wars.
History provides one more troubling lesson that leaders, who have cynical views on people and their nature, tend to receive more power and success in achieving strategic goals. Hitler is not a single example. History knows a plenty of such leaders (e.g. Metternich, Bismarck).
The Cold War and the History
The Cold War is also a significant event in the history. The name ‘war’ is arbitrary, since this confrontation was not a war in a strict sense. One of the main features of the confrontation was the ideology. Deep contradiction between the socialist and capitalist models was a major reason of the Cold War. Two superpowers tried to change the world in the accordance to their ideological precepts. After certain period, the confrontation became part of the ideology of both parties and leaders to help military-political blocs to unionize allies. The Cold War provides particular lessons for future generations. One of them is that bloodshed as a mean of adjustment of global or regional conflict is not imminent. Significant moderating role was played by the availability of nuclear weapons and knowledge of how the world could change after a nuclear conflict. This understanding still remains crucial for further development. The course of the conflict is closely related to specific personal qualities of leaders (Stalin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan). Another lesson of the Cold War is that a military power is important, but not crucial. Thus, the United States did not achieve their objectives in Vietnam. In an era of nationalism and industrial (information) revolution, it was impossible to manage hostile population of the occupied country. Under such conditions, the economic power of the state and the ability of the economic system to adapt to the requirements of modernity, capacity for continuous innovation acquire a much greater role. A decisive role is played by an applying soft methods of influence, or ‘soft power’, i.e.: the ability to achieve the desired goals without forcing (bullying), buying consent of others.
Chornobyl Effects on Future
Western civilization has experienced one more problem, whose significance remains relevant to modern times. The phrase ‘nuclear energy’ causes complex and contradictory feelings. The Chernobyl tragedy is also related to these words. Although years pass, Chernobyl wounds are not healing. The consequences of this reckless human activity remain in human memory. The planetary ecological disaster threatened every earthling. People feel its long-term effects today. The disaster has affected the fate of millions of people. Socio-economic, political, environmental, and other issues are largely a consequence of the nuclear disaster. There have been attracted enormous financial, scientific, and human resources to create a reliable protection from consequences of this tragedy. The Chernobyl disaster was a shock and a global landmark event in history. It caused a huge impact not only on health and the gene pool, but on the environmental, economic and social situation in Europe in general.
Using atomic energy is the reality of modern times. Today, nuclear arsenals reached the volume that threatens to destruct almost every living thing on the Earth. It is time to realize that the preservation of human civilization is the task of all countries, as a nuclear war would inevitably affect everyone. Even peaceful atomic energy conceals considerable danger in itself. This is evidenced by the consequences of accidents at nuclear facilities. Therefore, all countries have to ensure that the possibility of accidents at nuclear power plants has been reduced to zero. Scientific and technological progress have provided tremendous opportunities for the use of atomic energy, but it is important to understand whether there is enough knowledge and common sense to ensure the reliability and safety of this process. Securing the use of nuclear energy and the liberation of the planet from nuclear weapons require broad international cooperation, joint efforts of all states, especially nuclear, international organizations, and social forces that are interested in creating a comprehensive and reliable system of international security.
History teaches people a lot, opens the mind, helps to understand not only the past but the present, and look into the future. History stands not as a dead past, not as a cheap popular illustration of loyalty to some general schemes, but as thoughts and doubts, success and failure, ups and downs of past generations. The lessons of history are provided today not to update the previous system of dogmas, but to create strong opposition to them.