Historical Awareness and Uses of History Reading


Historical Awareness

Chapter one “Historical Awareness” in The Pursuit of History by John Tosh defines the purpose of having historical awareness when reflecting on the past. Our memories serve as a way to understand and know past events. All societies have this memory in order to understand and respect how the past has shaped the present. Tosh explains the relationship between social memory and historical awareness is to show historians that it is important to analyze past events in the era they took place. Therefore, no present day ideas or events should compare to past ideas or should be used to understand the past. He states how historical awareness and social memory are two different things; however, social memory is essential in understanding the purpose of historical awareness. Historicists, those who believe the past must be respected, have found that historical awareness is best understood by using three principles. Tosh defines these principles as recognizing differences in time periods, context of a subject must stay within its time period, and understanding that events over time become more significant. Tosh shows that by following these principles historians can use social memory properly, therefore they can analyze and understand the past accurately.


Uses of History

Chapter two “The Uses of History” in The Pursuit of History by John Tosh explains the reasons as to why we study history. Tosh describes two reasons why we study history that are seen as extreme by Historians. The first extreme is metahistory, which is the fact that our destiny is explained by human history of the past. The other extreme is the idea that society will learn nothing from history because it provides society with no guidance for the present or future. Tosh shows how historians prefer using historical differences and context in learning history because it’s realistic and practical. Historical differences involve remembering events in the recent past as well as controlling our understanding of present situations in a realistic way. Historical context allows historians to not be hindered when understanding the past. By using historical context historians can analyze and interpret history without limits. Furthermore, Tosh shows that historical context and differences are significant to historians because it allows them to develop a realistic and practical understanding of our past.

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