Reflecting on why I chose social history as a field of study for my Ph.D., and why I think it’s a very important field.
I was sitting with a friend of mine the other day at a restaurant by Shaikh Zayed Road in Dubai. That day I had spent nearly eight hours writing my research proposal for my Ph.D. studies. He asked me, “Nasser, why do you wish to study Economics and Social History? It’s a useless subject, and it won’t get you any jobs.” I told him two things: I already have a job that would benefit from the subject, which is teaching at Zayed University. The second thing I told him got us talking for almost an hour nonstop. Here is what I told my friend about why I want to be a historian.
Imagine waking up one morning with absolutely no idea of anything that happened the past 25 years. You wake up from your bed as if you have been in a long coma, and you can’t even recognize the faces of your loved ones or make out the objects in your room. Your fears would be perpetuating, your uncertainty growing, and your judgment weak. You wouldn’t know what’s what and who’s who. People will call themselves your loved ones, yet you would look at them with disarray. You may struggle the next few days walking again, constantly bumping into glass doors, and burning yourself more than once because you never learned what fire is.
You see history is the same concept. If we wake up not knowing anything about the past, we would have lost so much knowledge that would otherwise enable us to survive and grow as a species. History is not just dates and people who did this or that, but rather the lessons learned and actions explained in all our lives. Think of history in the same way. People throughout time have made decisions and actions that they have either rejoiced or regretted all their lives. What history provides us with is the review and comments section of everyone’s choices in the past. History can teach us what will happen if we discriminate against a minority, are unjust in our rule, destroy our environment, follow ideas blindly, are rude to others, or even commit a crime. There is a lesson to be learned in everything in life, and history is but one key to the many answers in life.
History is the fabric of time connecting the advancement of life, from art to science. The story of failure is a story of success, and the actions of our past determine the path of our future. You see by studying history I do more than study His-story, I make sure that when I do wake up today, I know well not to play with fire.
Recommended more reads:
- A Little History of the World – Ernst Gombrich
- Why history matters – Penelope J. Corfield
- The importance of history – David Crabtree
- Why Study History – Peter N. Stearns
Nasser AlFalasi was born the year the cold war ended. For those who don’t know the year the cold war ended, Nasser’s columns in SAIL is exactly for that reason. Nasser’s undergrad was in Financial Services at the Higher Colleges of Technology. He then pursued his graduate studies at NYU, NYC concentrating in global affairs with a specialization in international relations and transnational security. His major interests include history and global affairs. Most of his columns will be in regards to those topics. By the way, if you haven’t already found out the year Nasser was born, its 1991.
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