Posted on January 29, 2017 by Sean Munger in Authors, Books, History /

Al Mackey, the Civil War historian who runs the excellent Student of the American Civil War blog, has today put up a very thoughtful and incisive piece on a book written by another one of our blogging colleagues, Dr. John Fea. Dr. Fea’s book Why Study History? is a clarion call for our times, when understanding of the past–or even appreciation of why understanding the past is even useful–is under serious attack. The themes Dr. Fea talks about in his book, and which Mr. Mackey echoes, are similar to those I recently dealt with in my own article about the dangers of “Fake History.” Please read the whole article at Al’s blog, or, better yet, buy Dr. Fea’s book!

This is an excellent book by John Fea, Associate Professor of American History and Chair of the History Department at Messiah College. Professor Fea is also a blogging colleague, blogging at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, which is also the title of an earlier book of his, subtitled, Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America. There he posts the normal history blog posts as well as personal reflections on current events, religion, politics, and the academic life, as well as videos. He also hosts a podcast that has already been featured on this blog.

In my opinion, everyone who would like to be a serious student of history needs to read this book. Professor Fea gives us an accessible primer on how to do history, from the obligatory “What Do Historians Do?” to “What Can You Do With a History Degree?”

So what is a historian? ” ‘In my opinion,’ writes Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon Wood, ‘not everyone who writes about the past is a historian. Sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and economists frequently work in the past without thinking historically.’ ” [pp. 1-2]

Is history simply the past, or is there a difference?… [CONT’D]

Read the entire original article here: Why Study History? Reflecting on the Importance of the Past.


  1. It’s like the Texas Board of Education eliminating important black history items from their history books — like slavery, lynchings and other ethnic atrocities. So, the question arises, why pay attention to history if it’s being manhandled and manipulated for convenience.


    • Because you don’t need to use their version of history. Facts and history are not just school textbooks. Relying on textbooks is what got us here. Going back to real history is the cure. I don’t think I ever read a history textbook. I read history and totally ignored the crap they pandered in school. I also aced every history course I took.


      • I’m just sayin’ I understand why some folks don’t trust history. There are too many versions of events and it’s difficult to know which is correct.., or if there even IS a correct version.


        • Yes, but you can find the truth if you want to find it. It really isn’t that hard. You have to read some real history books. Like, you know, people who are historians. Some of these books are well, you know, long. Thick. Heavy. Serious. But not all of them. And you need to learn history in pieces, by particular periods and events, written by historians who specialize in those areas. History isn’t a “thing.” It’s a way of looking at something. Everything, everyone has a history.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I find that history is a work in progress. Sometimes we are led by ancient myths that turn out to be true. Then there is the most recent history where most of the facts are altered to fit some political agenda. It’s fascinating subject.


    • A lot of people seem to equate “history” with “the stuff in textbooks.” It isn’t the same thing. The truth — actual knowledge — is out there. We don’t need to accept the retrofitted versions they feed us in school. A little curiosity can go a long way. Unfortunately, they aren’t teaching kids to think, just to pass exams.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It would help if our schools actually taught history. The curriculum in most schools has been cut to the bone and all they do is prepare kids to take standardized tests. They aren’t learning history … OR learning how to think.

      Liked by 3 people

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