Defending History

The study of history seems to be under attack in the U.K.  Antony Beever defends it.  Here is a taste:

I would never argue that historians or history teachers have a moral role. Their main obligation is to understand the mentality of the time and to pass on that understanding: it is not to apply 21st-century values in retrospect. Nor should they simplify for moral effect. It is absolutely right to convey the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade, but the role of African leaders themselves in promoting slavery must also be explained. So must the fact that the eastern slave trade, mainly to the Arabian peninsula, was older and more lethal. Certainly it led to the death of more victims in peculiarly horrible circumstances.

Of course history should never be used to inculcate virtuous citizenship. Yet it offers the richest imaginable source of moral examples and moral dilemmas, which are themselves the essence of great fiction, great drama, and life itself. Without an understanding of history, we are politically, culturally and socially impoverished. If we sacrifice history to economic pressures or to budget cuts, we will lose a part of who we are.