The Importance of History
This articles is on the importance of history.
History as a subject is a very important one. An indispensable one in our society for that matter. And to begin to define it appears to be stating the obvious.
However, as the definition of history is paramount to this discussion, let us define it.
History is defined as the in-depth and thorough study of past events through collection and collation and careful analysis of documents, oral tradition, written sources and archaeological evidence in the deciphering of knowledge about the past, so as to have knowledge of the past and also to learn from the past.
Moreover, it is an important subject in the society serving as a force of cohesion and integration. Also, history or the study of history has a purpose.
We study it in order to discover how we have come to be where we are. And also learn and gain knowledge and experience from the past. So that we can learn from it and so avoid making mistakes of the past.
Also, improving in the knowledge of the past as knowledge is power.
And it is by all means the bridge that links the past to the present. Since history is a cycle and a wheel as the history of humanity and the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging.
Why is History Important?
The things that have happened before must perforce happen again, we can use the past to decipher and predict the future. And find solution to current problems.
However in going about the business of gaining knowledge about the past three means are employed. They are: Oral tradition, Written sources and Archeological evidence.
Oral tradition, “A thousand years has passed history has become legend and legend, myth”. J.R.R. TOLKIEN AUTHOR OF LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY.
This deals with oral history passed through from generation to generation through various stories, poems, songs, by the word of the mouth.
Oral tradition is a living museum. Conserver and transmitter of the social and cultural creations. Which people store up, which we say has no written history.
As one man said “Knowledge (Oral Tradition) is that light that is in man, it is the heritage of all that our ancestors have known and it is the germ that they transmit to us, just as the baobab tree is potentially in its seed”.
Moreover, spoken (oral) history is a very frail thread through which we trace our way through the labyrinths of time.
It is a kind of collective memory the society possesses. As the quote suggests most myths, legends oral tradition and mythologies were actually History. But as time passed on they were slowly over time merged with the mythological and most mythologies.
Legends and oral tradition are at the root of historical events examples such as the deification of Sango.
Sango is the third Alaafin of Oyo who later turned into the god of thunder.
Oral Tradition: The Importance of History
As oral tradition are essential sources of history there is an urgent need to collect oral tradition.
And the custodians of this source of history are Hoary-eyed old men with cracked voices and dim memories.
So, collecting it from these people is important. For oral tradition as a source of history is important as the people are the agents of socialization of the younger generation in such matters.
On the other hand, Written sources deal with narrative history written down in books, articles, papers, journals etc. .By various authors over time.
And finally, Archaeology which is the silent witness in history. That is the scientific study and examination of remains of past events through the excavation of historic sites and surveying them.
We also use it to learn about societies that existed before the invention of writing, about 5 500 years ago.
And also to supplement and complement our knowledge of oral traditions.
To supply information where written sources are scarce or absent. As it is in many phases of West African History and African history as a whole.
In the course of this discussion, which I to intimate and educate the reader. I will make an attempt in this project to shed light on some certain conceptions and preconceptions on Africa’s past.
For a long time, all kinds of myths and prejudices concealed the true history of Africa from the world at large.
Shedding Light on the History of Africa
This project is an attempt to shed light on Africa’s past which is thought by many people to be non-existent.
And that Africa has no history even by many ignorant Africans themselves.
Indeed as a Professor, Hugh Trevor-Roper at Oxford University once declared, “Perhaps in the future there will be some African history to teach. But at present there is none: there is only the history of Europeans in Africa.
The rest is darkness… and darkness is not a subject of history”.
However the present writer would beg to disagree.
The time has long gone by when maps and portrayals had great empty spaces representing the African continent. And for a long time the black skinned peoples of Africa south of the Sahara have been sadly misrepresented in much European orientated history.
But rather, the history of Africa like the history of the mankind as a whole is really the story of an awakening.
The need to Rewrite the History of Africa
The history of Africa needs rewriting for up till now it has been masked, faked, mutilated, distorted through ignorance or self-interest, crushed by centuries of oppression.
Furthermore, in defense on our part to these prejudices and biases, we must remember that Africa is a land with an early civilization.
We must remember however that there are many types of civilizations. The civilization we have in one part of the world may be different from the type of civilization we have in another part of the world.
We have heard of Western civilization, Oriental civilization and Traditional African civilization. We must not look down on any form of civilization because every nation has its own way of life.
And as a result, civilization differs from place to place and from age to age in order to be able to serve the needs of that place or age.
A significant Importance of History
As in A Short History of Africa by Roland Oliver and J.D. Fage. “Long before, in the evolution of man himself, Africa has helped shape history.
And while the centers of European culture, flourished, decayed and sprouted in their turn, empires in Africa rose, ruled, resisted and succumbed.
Scholars disputed and in Timbuktu and Jenne as in Paris and what the Italians accomplished with pigment. The artists of Benin achieved with bronze. The cultures were different but only on the horizontal. The vertical, the separation into inferior and superior was a product of conquest.”
Moreover, among the students of history and history of Africa in particular such as my humble self, at no other time has the study of history by Africans especially be more necessary and urgent than today in defiance of cultural assimilation.
Inspiration for the Importance of History
And also for developing racial pride which is one of the reasons that inspired this project.
The attainment of independence by many African states in the past century has made a fuller knowledge of Africa’s past greatness indispensable to African states and their citizens.
Reference to past greatness is an element of nationalism the world over. It inspires pride, self-reliance and confidence in a people long subject to colonial rule. “Arab nationalists says Hodgkin, look back to the early caliphate, Indians to Akbar.”
It is only natural that emergent African nationalists should draw inspiration from looking back on the great civilizations that flourished before the period of European conquest.
Therefore knowledge about Africa’s past will correct the distorted image of Africa. And restore its due respect among the nations of the world.
The History of Africa after Independence
However after the attainment of independence the need also arose for the African nations to achieve cultural independence.
It is well known that one of the unpleasant effects of colonialism is the suppression of African. And the superimposition of the European culture on it.
During the colonial period, Western education was orientated to create in Africans a dislike for African things.
Sadly enough, this trend has continued right up to this day among educated Africans who possess distaste for things, African.
Moreover we label our traditional religion as paganism. While we refer to our language as vernacular, both insulting terms.
Unfortunately enough, this trend has continued in many schools which forbid the usage of the native languages in communication within the school.
Cultural Identity: A key to Nationalism
Cultural identity is a necessary ingredient of nationalism.
The problem of most politically independent African states today is European cultural imperialism.
And unless these states can win back their cultural identity they are only half free. And so an aluta continua of colonialism in form of neo-colonialism emerges.
The surest way for cultural and intellectual emancipation of Africa is through the revival of the good and worthy aspects of indigenous culture.
Through a cultural revolution.
Through a renewed urge and commitment to the study of African history and eradication of ignorance about our past.
Ignorance about one’s past, history, language and culture results not only in cultural nakedness but also alienation from oneself and disconnection from one’s destiny.
This is the case of many of Africans today. They are between the anvil and the hammer, to quote the poet Kofi Awoonor.
Continuation on The Importance of History
And are lost in the morning mist of the piano and drums, borrowing a leaf from the poet Gabriel Okara. And exist in a cultural limbo, somewhere in between the western culture and their own traditional culture.
For the reasons and purposes stated above that inspired the institution and writing of this Essay is an attempt to examine and to shed light on the importance of history. So as to inspire a rebirth in the study of history.
In conclusion, no man can tell with certainty what the future holds.
But perhaps, in knowing what has transpired in the past, we can all do our part to avoid the mistakes of our forebears.
Figuring out the High Importance of History
So for us not to condemn ourselves to repeating the erroneous past, but emulate their success. And to create a world more harmonious for our children, for generations to come.
Finally, this essay is to serve as a beacon and as a light to enlighten the Africans in particular the Nigerian peoples, of their past.
And in particular their past greatness so that it will make people to remember and understand their past. So that they learn from it and it may duly overawe those with ignorance of Africa’s past greatness.
And will act as an enzyme towards nationalism. Which will in turn inspire the most profound admiration and respect of the past.
With it’s utility, to understanding the present and avoid making mistakes of the past in the future.
Composed and Written by – Tèmítọ́pẹ́ Emmanuel.
Temitope Emmanuel Ọ̀jọ́ is a Lawyer in Incubation at Ọbáfẹ́mi Awólọ́wọ̀ University (IFELAW). He is Enthusiastic about History and believes in the role that Profound Knowledge in History plays in the society. And thus, more attention should be paid to its knowledge and study in our Society.
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