How can we better understand the people of the past?



In Social Studies we are taking a deeper look at people of the past and historical events. The best answer I can give to the question above is that there is no way to truly understand the people of the past because people’s conditions, values, beliefs, and influences were very different from the worldviews people of today have. It is not realistically possible for us to completely understand or relate to what they have been through, although there are ways for us to somewhat get a taste of their experiences or try our best to infer how they felt. These are some points that I find relevant.

Talk to someone who experienced that time. Even though talking to just one person is not a good way to understand the whole situation or what everyone experienced during the time, but it is a good way to hear the story from a first-person perspective. A lot of the time, “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” is just a simple saying, but to truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes you would have to listen to someone’s first person knowledge of their emotions and what they thought, heard, and saw at the time.

Exploring many different points of view is very important to get the entire picture. Every person has different views and opinions on the same event. To be an unbiased learner, it is key to get the first-person perspective of the different sides of the occurrence or conflict.

Do not judge the choices and beliefs the people of the past had to follow. Our values, culture, motivations, leaders, religions, economic status and such are not the same as they were in the past. It would not be fair to accuse them of “not knowing better”, because clearly during that time people had their own logic and rules to follow. They wouldn’t have been able to predict the past and see what our world has come to today.

Gradually, roles and institutions were born, groups expanded, people who cooperated often began to value the mutual adjustment of behavior. After many years of adaptations and reconciliation, we have come to a point where we can look back and see how far we’ve come. We have become more open to equality and certain values in life. Although there are still a lot of problems in our current world we must address, I’d like to say that humans have come a long way and we must take into consideration that the people of the past have brought us here. Understanding their experiences can also help us truly gain the knowledge of historical patterns and the impacts they bring upon us.