• Question: what is the meaning of history

    Asked by persionsupreme to Anil, Blanka, Cees, Emma, Mike on 26 Jun 2012.
    • Photo: Michael Cook

      Michael Cook answered on 26 Jun 2012:

      Do you mean why do we study it?

      History tells us lots of things! They say that if you want to understand the present you must study the past, and by learning about what has already happened we can sometimes get a better idea of what might happen in the world next.

      History is also a good way to do experiments, funnily enough! With chemicals and bacteria we can easily repeat experiments or arrange very complicated scenarios. But with people we can’t do that – if we want to to know what happens when a country is suddenly affected by a disease, looking at historical data can help us understand what happens to the people, the economy, and so on. That’s a different kind of science though!

    • Photo: Blanka Sengerova

      Blanka Sengerova answered on 26 Jun 2012:

      It can tell us what has worked and hasn’t worked in the past (from a science perspective) so we can learn which things are good to do and which are best avoided. It is also interesting to know about what past cultures knew and didn’t know about.

    • Photo: Emma Trantham

      Emma Trantham answered on 27 Jun 2012:

      As Mike says, we can use historical data and artifacts to learn more about science.

      Did you know, some scientists dug up one of the plague pits in London (these pits were where all the Black Death victims’ bodies were buried back in the 1300’s)? They found the DNA of the organism that caused the Black Death inside the skeletons’ teeth and analysed it to see why the organism caused so many deaths back then, but doesn’t seem to be as dangerous now (plague still exists in parts of the world!)

      I think at the moment it looks like the bacteria around now are no different to the bacteria around then. People in the 1300’s were just really unlucky because they didn’t have clean water, they didn’t know how diseases traveled and they didn’t have any drugs to treat the disease.

      That’s one of those times we use historical records to learn something new about science today.