Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why Study History?

Historiann asks, "What is the point of learning history?" I like the answer of Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Ali al-Mas'udi, called the "Imam of Historians" in premodern Muslim civilization:
"For any branch of knowledge to exist, it must be derived from history. From it all wisdom is deduced, all jurisprudence is elicited, all eloquence is learnt. Those who reason by analogy build upon it. Those who have opinions to expound use it for argument. Popular knowledge is derived from it and the precepts of the wise are found in it. Noble and lofty morality is acquired from it and the rules of royal government and war are sought in it. All manner of strange events are found in it; in it, too, all kinds of entertaining stories may be enjoyed. It is a science which can be appreciated by both the educated and the ignorant, savoured by both fool and sage, and much desired comfort to elites and commoners. The superiority of history over all other branches of learning is obvious. The loftiness of its status is recognized by any person of intelligence."

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