In the early 20th century, the Spanish American philosopher George Santayana penned
the words “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Certainly,
the record of human events provides a rich source of examples of how humanity has
chosen to act in the past. These past events have shaped our contemporary world and
provide insight into how each of us views this world. Perhaps we can be inspired
by the actions of our predecessors and learn from their mistakes.
History, however, goes beyond a mere memory of past human events. The discipline of
History is the critical analysis of the past through the examination of surviving
documents. What does the evidence say about the past? What does the evidence say that
its creator did not mean for it to say? The historian’s task it to achieve a deeper
understanding about the past and the motives of its actors.