History Matters: Why Understanding the Past is Essential

Edward O’Donnell – Holy Cross College

11/17/2020 4:00 pm

Almost everyone, it seems, knows a variation of the quote by the American philosopher George Santayana, “Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.”  But do we really know why it’s important to study history?  Do we know what separates history from other academic subjects like math, science or psychology? Do we know what it is that historians do, or why it matters?  This presentation will broaden participants’ understanding of the significance of history beyond some elusive notion of “learning lessons.” Using vivid examples from topics such as the history of slavery, the Civil War, immigration, and women’s rights, Professor O’Donnell will explore the five essential elements of history and how they hold the potential to strengthen our democracy, promote human rights, boost a healthy patriotism, and inform our public policy decisions on issues such as taxes, healthcare, war and privacy.