Why Study History

History is not only useful, it is actually indispensable

Conques-Cathedral-from-above“Historians do not perform heart transplants, improve highway design, or arrest criminals. In a society that quite correctly expects education to serve useful purposes, the functions of history can seem more difficult to define than those of engineering or medicine. History is in fact very useful, actually indispensable, but the products of historical study are less tangible, sometimes less immediate, than those that stem from some other disciplines.”

This is how Peter Stearns begins his famous essay, “Why Study History?” Stearns goes on to show that history’s uses include the understanding of diverse peoples and societies and how change caused those societies to come into being. He argues that history contributes to our moral understanding, gives us a sense of identity, and is essential for good citizenship.

Every aspect of Stearns’ argument works toward Augsburg’s mission to educate students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders. This is what we teach our students in the Department of History.