Friday, March 16, 2012

In Our Time Moment: History and Understanding the Past

The jumping off point for this March 2000 episode of In Our Time was The New Century by historian Eric J. Hobsbwam. The US edition of this book was published as On the Edge of the New Century in May 2001. Melvyn Bragg was joined by Dr. Hobsbwam and Richard J. Evans.

The panel discussed whether history is useful for understanding the present and future and whether or not the lessons learnt are applied appropriately. I particularly liked Dr. Evans' point that studying societies of the past can give a greater understanding of what it means to be human. Dr. Hobsbwam uses the national and global aspecs of football (soccer) to explain globalization.

The conclusion, I think of the discussion, is that history cannot predict the future, in part because conditions have changed so dramatically. For almost all of human history the vast majority of people have worked the land, now only about 2-3% do, and as Dr. Hobsbwam points out this fact, along with the increases in literacy and education, make the world a fundamentally different place. But what history can do is help explain why things are the way they are and suggest possibilities for the future.

Find this episode at the IOT History archive here or search iTunes.

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