Why Study History? In this blog, which stems from an assignment, I will take you on a trip as to why I believe history should be studied. The study of history teaches us how others before us lived, loved, and died. History is more than lectures, books and battlefields. I present you with several examples to support my claim. I explore websites and have included photos and a video. I explore the website called Atlas of Early Printing created by the University of Iowa. https://atlas.lib.uiowa.edu/# . It is an interactive map showing the growth of printing, books, book trade, etc., between the years 1450 to 1500. I will also take you to Pompeii, whereas a young man of 19, I saw many petrified persons; which has had an everlasting effect on me. I have included a video on Pompeii. I then explain how Ancestry.com https://www.ancestry.com/ help me to find past family soldiers who were long forgotten. Lastly, I look at another interactive website database which I was introduced to by Dr. Joe Super and his class HIWD 550-B01 Slavery and Servitude. The site was Slave Voyages https://www.slavevoyages.org/. This site was created by Emory university and brings the past of a horrific nature to the present. I hope that after viewing my blog you will agree with me that history teaches us how others before us lived, loved, and died, which in turn affects how we live today. I had to ponder that a bit, then I remembered a class I had taken during my master, at Johns Hopkins, titled, The History of Books from Antiquity to the Digital Humanities, by Dr. Earle Havens curator of rare books at Hopkins. The class showed me the importance of studying history along with today’s technology in which we can digitize, save, and study digitized books in ways which were not possible a few years ago. The class demonstrated the evolution of books, the impact of the printing press, the advent of book fairs, and the social impact books had on societies. There is a great website called Atlas of Early Printing created by the University of Iowa. https://atlas.lib.uiowa.edu/# . The interactive map spans the years 1450 to 1500. On the website you can select items in the left column, such as, Spread of Printing, Universities, Paper Mills, Output by Location, Ecclesiastical Borders, Fairs, Conflicts and a few more. There is a sliding time scale across the top from 1450 to 1500. With this timeline you can witness the historical spread – growth of paper publishing, universities, paper mills, book trade / fairs, etc. What the class did for me was to present history as living, as it brought to life the lives, societies and countries that were affected by the advent of the books over scrolls, and the impact of Gutenberg’s press in 1449. I have included two screen shots from the Atlas of Early Printing. Figure 1 shows the number of universities – seen as blue dots – in 1452, with one red dot; which represents the only printing press in Europe; which was in the city of Maniz, operated by Johann Gutenberg. Figure two is of the same map but of the year 1500. The map demonstrates the impact of the new printing press and it is a good representation of the hunger the public had for books. Figure 1, Year 1452, Universities and sole printer Figure 2, year 1500, Universities and many printers In figure two you will notice that almost all universities have a printer. It is a red dot with a blue circle. The study of history lets us examine our current lives, as it answers basic questions, for instance, how did we arrive here? And why do we live our lives as we do? Like books and their travels, some use history to find out who they are, by using web sites like Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com/. As their website states, “Find your family story.” I have been researching my family lineage over the years. This historical adventure in researching and finding long lost family information helped to sway me from a field of medical anthropology to history, thus I am here in this class with you. I found out I had one great grandfather in the Spanish American War, three great great grandfathers in the Civil War, all were in the Union army. I have one in the war of 1812 and one in the Revolutionary war. History connected me with these men and their families. Figure 3 shows my great grandfather Frank (SMAW) and his father (sitting) my great great grandfather John (Civil War). John was 15 when the Civil War started. On February 11th, 1864, he enlisted in Company E, Pennsylvania 48th Infantry Regiment and was mustered out on 17 July 1865, in Alexandria, VA. Figure 3, Frank DeFrain (DeFrehn) and his father John, ca., 1909. The study of history teaches us how others before us lived, loved, and died. History is more than lectures, books and battlefields. When I was a young lad of 19, in 82, I visited Pompeii where I saw many petrified persons. This experience somehow changed my life’s perspective on life. Today, you do not need to get a plane ticket, or join the Navy (like I did) to see Pompeii, You just need to click on YouTube. I have included a short 2:38 minute YouTube video on Pompeii. If the embedded video does not work, here is the link. https://youtu.be/DeB5N_bH7E8
This experience, along with other ports I visited, Egypt, Israel, Spain, and many more, brought history to the forefront of my consciousness. History can change a person’s view on how one should live in the world and it can make you appreciate your place in history. According to the American Historical Associations website webpage, https://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/why-study-history, It states, “Why study history? The answer is because we virtually must, to gain access to the laboratory of human experience.” Another interactive website database I was introduced to, this time by Dr. Joe Super and his class HIWD 550-B01 Slavery and Servitude, was Slave Voyages https://www.slavevoyages.org/. This site was created by Emory university, and brings the past of a horrific nature to the present. Here is a bit from the websites homepage, “The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database now comprises 36,000 individual slaving expeditions between 1514 and 1866. Records of the voyages have been found in archives and libraries throughout the Atlantic world. They provide information about vessels, routes, and the people associated with them, both enslaved and enslavers.” I recommend you spend some quality time at the site, it may change your perspective on the slave trade. I know I learned much more researching slave ship than I did only reading about them. I will leave you with a quote for the home page on the AHA website, “Historical knowledge is no more and no less than carefully and critically constructed collective memory. As such it can both make us wiser in our public choices and more richly human in our private lives.”—William H. McNeill, Why Study History? (1985)  Ancestry.com. 2019. Accessed 08 27, 2019. https://www.ancestry.com/  American Historical Association why-study-history. 2018. Accessed 08 27, 19. https://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/why-study-history.  Emory University, Slave Voyages. 2019. Accessed 08 27, 2019. https://www.slavevoyages.org/.  American Historical Association why-study-history. 2018. Accessed 08 27, 19. https://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/why-study-history.
Ancestry.com. 2019. Accessed 08 27, 2019. https://www.ancestry.com/. Association, American Historical. 2018. Accessed 08 27, 19. https://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/why-study-history. Iowa, University of. Atlas of Early Printing. 2019. Accessed 08 27, 2019. https://atlas.lib.uiowa.edu/#. Kourounis, George. The Lost City of Pompeii. 09 23, 2012. Accessed 08 27, 2019. .https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeB5N_bH7E8. University., Emory. Slave Voyages. 2019. Accessed 08 27, 201. .https://www.slavevoyages.org/.