The study of history is the analysis of change through observations of events and people when describing a period of time. Students of history use critical analysis to weave together multiple layers of events, observations, and people into meaningful themes that answer the question, why? History is not singular dates, individual people, or one-dimensional observations. The historian uses their factual knowledge of these elements to ask probing questions and seek robust understand of how connections are made. Rarely in historical context do individual events, people, or observations provide a full and complete explanation. It is up to the student of history to inquire, investigate, and make connections to fully understand these connections. More so than not, the student of history must acknowledge bias and individual perspective of the history being told and by whom. Generational bias as well as individual nationalism should be identified as a lens through which the student of history should be aware. History should not be considered binary, as in a perspective of right versus wrong or other explanations considering the opposite to be a truth in light of a falsity identified. Rarely in historical analysis, are events, observation, or people correctly and completely defined by this binary perspective. Leaders change their politics, countries ally with former combatants, and the stories of events are re-calibrated over time as new information comes to light. The writings of the historian are bound into the bias of the author and the setting in which they are written.

Many times, historical writing is presented in a linear fashion. Time is usually the defining element. But this perspective is limiting in that events take place simultaneously, peoples lives are impacted from multiple directions not only in straight lines, and political/social/cultural changed is grounded in prior events that may have not happened immediately preceding. This textbook takes an approach and structure of grouping chapters into four broad themes: Conflict, Injustice and Inequity, Leadership, and Politics. Each of these themes will be presented within a context of historical events and peoples. The author attempts to present history from a variety of lens, both from the every-day person to leaders. Through the study of history we are, in essence looking for some type of predictive model to apply current events to. There’s a famous line by a 20th century philosopher who taught at Harvard, whose name is George Santayana. George Santayana is perhaps most famous for this quote. “Those who do not read the past are doomed to repeat it.” The thing is that George Santayana, most historians believed was probably wrong. History does not repeat itself, not in the same way. Maybe Mark Twain had the better line when he said, “History does not repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes.” And maybe in those rhyming couplets, we can learn things. We can apply the uses of history, we can find something that is useful from the past and apply it to the present.

This text is one such historical writing. It will be up to you, the student of history to identify and acknowledge bias and perspective, make connections between past and contemporary, and draw conclusions to the question of why.


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20th Century World History Copyright © 2023 by Dr. Brett Campbell / Tulsa Community College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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