Just this week, Bill Wurtz released a video called, “The history of the entire world, I guess,” a follow-up to the internet famous “History of Japan.” Filled with funny jingles combined with simple, yet effective animation, it summarized the world’s history since the Big Bang Theory to how the Earth and societies developed in twenty minutes.
In twenty minutes, another YouTuber made a video on a time-lapse of human civilization, since humans evolved out of Africa, documenting historical events and the world population along the way.
Among the visuals, great music, and commentary, one would know how the history of the world unfolded in distinct locations. It causes us to wonder about how we ended up here, in this very moment, reading this from behind our screens.
Therefore, I find a beauty in history—not in what happened or how many people died in the process, but in how people have innovated and fought and were like us today in emotions and dreams.
And a good reason to show to other people how, despite some people believing that they should’ve been born in a previous decade due to their art and culture, it may not be the best reason why they should live in that era. It’s not only because they don’t have the technology or the conveniences of today, but if they are not males of European descent who have a lot of money and influence, it would be significantly harder to live in.
In the International Studies major at UW, students have to take three introductory courses: States and Capitalism, which focuses on trends between the 13th century and 1914; the Making of the 21st Century, which focuses on world order between 1914 and today; and Cultural Interactions in the Modern World, which focuses on ideas over the ages. A common thread between all three of them is how processes, whether through trade, or war, or pillage, creates these societies we have today. As the International Studies major also involves politics, economics, and anthropology, the history part sometimes sounds dry, if not irrelevant.
Personally, I liked the courses, and got a lot out of them. Most prominently, I’ve learned about the various trading posts in Europe, the Middle East, and China in the 12-13th century, and how they set the stage for what would be ahead in the 15th and 16th centuries. On the other hand, the making of the 21st century featured “world order” as a pivot point, and therefore the news articles we read about the world closely relate to world order and how it could transform overnight.
What also makes history intriguing is how people would use it for their own aims, or to make a clear verdict to how people interpret events today. For example, in my Chinese class, we discussed about mainland China-Taiwan relations, and how any claims today are based out of who claimed it first. The Chinese argued it had Taiwan since the Three Kingdoms era, whereas the Taiwanese argue it was only at around 1885, when the Qing Dynasty absorbed it into China.
Recently, with FBI Director James Comey’s firing, discussions arose on whether it was “Nixonian,” or connective towards the Watergate scandal, potentially laying down the groundwork for impeachment. Others point out the lurch towards authoritarianism, which is not only historically for the modern day, but also emergent within the political science realm on how liberal democracies may not mark “the end of history."
Regardless on who is on the right side of history, and therefore worthy of the privilege of writing this for future generations, one cannot forget how important history is in determining our future. And if history is bound to repeat itself, how we can change it for the better.