Why History Matters


History as a Discipline

At a simple level, history matters because it is useful. History is a powerful tool for developing analytical thinking and good communication. It is not a coincidence that many people who study history go on to become lawyers, accountants, journalists and business leaders. In short, history develops important skills – analysis, evaluation, argument, use of evidence and communication – all of which are very helpful in many other walks of life as well as the study of history. Churchill was a historian himself, and wrote many history books. Probably the two best known were his History of the English Speaking Peoples and his The Second World War book series.

A photograph of British forces moving inland from Sword Beach on the Normandy coast.

British forces, Royal Marine Commandos, move inland from Sword Beach on the Normandy coast during the invasion of France in June 1944. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Letter from Sir Frederick Macmillan on publication of a new edition of "Lord Randolph Churchill".

Churchill also used his skills as a historian to become a very successful journalist who was much in demand.

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View letter from A P Watt & Son, Literary Agents, on possible publication in the United States of volume of WSC's articles

At a deeper level than finding work and making a living, history matters in the same way that any subject matters. It is a worthwhile activity which has value for its own sake, in the same way that English, mathematics, science or geography matter for their own sake. History also matters because when it is done properly it is not a body of knowledge to be learned - it is a discipline in which historians take what is left behind from the past and try to build the most faithful and reliable account of what they think happened. Churchill was no exception in this regard, although as the document below shows, Churchill’s works were carefully researched but a lot of this research was not done by Churchill himself! In many ways this letter is the perfect illustration of the lengths that historians go to when piecing together the histories they write.