Lessons We Learn From History

Reading Time: 8 minutes

History is one subject in the galaxy of subjects that teaches its readers not only the subject, but also a lot of wisdom. Most people hold the view that history is just a list of events that have occurred and put only in a chronological order. True history is a chronological list of events. But, if we study it only as that we are missing on it and we are not giving the subject its correct status.

This subject has such a large perspective of things that, no other subject that is studied ever can be without its history. Science has a history, technological development has a history, religion has a history. No subject of any significance is without a history, then how can we say that history is trash. If man had not discovered that fire can be produced by rubbing two stones, how would the theory of creating of fire come into being? If the ancient man would not have produced the wheel, how could we know to the present uses of the wheel? If the Hindu religion did not have the division of castes, how would the present situation f castes come into being? So we can say that the very essence of man’s progress is based on history and its study.

The evolution of man itself is based on history, his progress and most of his scientific and technological developments are all the results of man’s history, of the History of evolution had not been confined into history books, and if we had not read these books, how would we know about our past, and how would we maintain the tempo of development and progress. Man learnt from his mistakes, his experiences, the shortcomings of his ancestors, and continued to progress. Is this not a contribution of history? Does this not make the study of history important for us? The one single subject that had contributed so immensely to the constant and continuous growth of civilization is the history.

Another plea for not studying this drab subject is when people say history is just what passed away people have done. In this regard we must remember that we are not only studying what they did but, in the process, we are trying to understand what mistakes have they committed, and why? It has often been said that, history repeats itself. This means that if we repeat the same mistakes we will reach the same disasters. Is this very little an advantage of study of the subject that, as people, as a community, as a country, we realize the mistakes of our ancestors, and we do not commit the same mistakes and get the same results? So, here comes the wisdom imparted by this lone subject. It is only after the study of history that we can assess the mistakes of the preceding generations. It is from history the Britishers have learned the imperialism cannot continue for ever. It is from history that Indians have learned that we have to remain united to keep the country one single unit, to keep it safe and strong. It is the study of history that makes the modern world shudder to think of another nuclear holocaust.

The memory of Nagasaki and Hiroshima is still fresh in the minds of the world and so the fear of repetition of this keeps us aware and cautious. If we had not studied all these facts written in our history books, our reservoir of knowledge would have been much less, and we would not have been so well aware of the results of certain actions. Is this not enough of a gift to the world, of just one single subject?

If there would not have been this subject, how would we ever be able to assess how much man has progressed from the animal he was, to the highly sophisticated creation of God that he is today? How would we ever know about our own India’s rich cultural heritage, and so also how would we have been able to assess how and why we a have become a third world country as we are today? Again, all this because of our study of history.

The differences of culture in different parts of the world are also brought to our knowledge by the history of the world. It is only through the study of history that we come to know about the social, political and educational systems of the world, and we can adapt them to our country, if we feel the need. History! Besides gaining knowledge, this subject teaches us wisdom of life and teaches causes and effects of different actions. If we continue to learn from our history we shall never make the same mistakes again – and that would be quite a step forward. Like science, history also gives us formula. Science gives formula for progress of elements and history gives us formula of success. If we learn from History, we humans will certainly continue to forge ahead, and become a more and more disciplined and cultured force.

Besides the big lessons that we learn from History, it also teaches us how to behave in our day-to-day lives. We learn how discipline helped the forces of Alexander the Great to overcome Indians, and how at the same time and venue, the undisciplined forces of India surrendered to them. We learn how with their service to India through missionaries, the British could steadily spread their wings through the length and breadth of India. We learn from history how love for mankind made saints of Vivekanand, Gautam Buddha and Mahavira. We learn from history how, man’s desire to dominate others result in the ultimate break up of the British Empire in India. The greatest lesson that history has taught us Indians is the lesson we learned from our struggle for independence, i.e. we learned how much we can achieve if we stand united and have flare for nationalism.

Thus, this single subject which often faces the – ridicule of students and elders provides us with a sea of knowledge, insight and wisdom. It also teaches what the finer feelings of love and service can do for man. This one subject teaches us to become human and of course, it is the alma mater of all other subjects, as the history of any subject is taught before starting the study of the subject itself. It may be said that history is the mother of all other subjects, and should not be considered as, only a chronology of events, of the world, it is much more than just that. It is this subject that gives us the understanding of all countries that we can assess our position and then continue on our path of progress.

When we study the biographies of great men, we learn how to follow their footsteps and try to achieve at least a semblance of their greatness. These biographies teach us the qualities of great men which we can emulate and try to be achievers. This single subject makes such an enormous contribution that it will not behave any of us to talk of it in a jocular tone, on slight it. It teaches us to be good humans. It teaches us what actions are likely to have what reactions. It brings to light our rich heritage and also teaches us how the other countries are progressing. So we can say that history is a great teacher.

Americans Should Remember The Ninth Amendment

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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Two hundred and thirty years ago today, on November 20, 1789, New Jersey became the first state to ratify the proposed amendments to the Constitution that we now know as the Bill of Rights. Over the next two years, other states followed suit, culminating in the adoption of the amendments in December of 1791. It almost didn’t happen. Supporters of the Bill of Rights won their opponents over, though, thanks in large part to the inclusion of the Ninth Amendment.

If you’re straining to remember what you learned in civics class about the Ninth Amendment, you’re not alone. Despite the importance of the rights protected by the first ten amendments to the Constitution, surveys over the past few decades have consistently shown that Americans know little about either the Bill of Rights or the Constitution as a whole.

So what’s in the Bill of Rights? For starters, it’s not long — all together, the ten amendments are only 462 words and could be tweeted out in ten tweets. Those 462 words pack a punch, though, explicitly protecting a broad range of rights, from the freedom of speech to the right to a speedy and public trial. The scope of several of the amendments, such as the Second Amendment and its right to keep and bear arms, remains a hotly contested issue today. Others rarely breach the surface of public discourse — the Third Amendment’s prohibition against illegally housing soldiers in the homes of private citizens has been so effective that it has scarcely ever been litigated.

The Ninth Amendment falls into the latter category — it barely registers in the public sphere. If the Third Amendment is the least relevant of the Bill of Rights to Supreme Court jurisprudence, then the Ninth Amendment is the second-least relevant. The Supreme Court’s relegation of the Ninth Amendment to the dusty attic of judicial doctrine is odd when you read it, though: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” “Others retained by the people” is powerful language. Does it mean that Americans have constitutional rights not actually written in the Constitution? It depends whom you ask.

During his infamously contentious confirmation hearings as a Supreme Court nominee in 1987, then-judge Robert Bork said the meaning of the Ninth Amendment was too uncertain for judges to enforce, famously comparing it to an uninterpreted inkblot. This fit with Judge Bork’s belief that there are no “unenumerated,” or unwritten, constitutional rights. Fast-forward 30 years to the 2017 confirmation hearing of Neil Gorsuch, though, and you get a markedly different answer. When Senator Ben Sasse asked then–Judge Gorsuch what the Ninth Amendment means, Gorsuch answered simply: “I think it means what it says,” echoing an argument made in a 2006 law review article by Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett titled “The Ninth Amendment: It Means What It Says.”

In his article, Barnett reviews the historical evidence for the meaning of the Ninth Amendment and concludes that the amendment uniquely provides explicit guidance on how to interpret the Constitution. Specifically, it tells us that “unenumerated rights deserve no less protection from courts than those that were enumerated.” Accordingly, interpretations contrary to that principle are constitutionally prohibited.

The inclusion of an amendment dictating constitutional interpretation is a result of serious worries among the founding generation that a Bill of Rights would actually lead to less liberty, not more. James Wilson, one of the Constitution’s drafters, argued that a Bill of Rights would endanger liberty by implying that any rights left off the list were unprotected. Because it would be impossible to list all the rights that a person holds, it was better not to have a Bill of Rights at all. Instead, he argued, the Constitution protected liberty by carefully limiting the powers held by the government.

The Ninth Amendment was the compromise measure. By clarifying that listing certain rights did not mean that other rights were less protected, the drafters thought that they had covered all of their bases. The rights listed in the first ten amendments would be protected, but so would those that were not listed. That was important, because the rights listed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights amendments are hardly comprehensive. Notably left off the list is the principal right asserted in the Declaration of Independence: the right to “alter or abolish” an unjust and abusive government. This and other rights were included in the Bills of Rights of many state constitutions, but they were not explicitly listed in the Bill of Rights amendments to the national Constitution. The Ninth Amendment ensured that these rights would not be demoted to second-class status, as people like James Wilson had feared.

The Fall Of Rome. A Lesson Of History

Reading Time: 10 minutes

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There is a lot to be said about history. In this piece, I’d like to discuss the fall of empires. This could be construed as any land mass from the size of a small city, a large city like Los Angeles or an entire country like the United States. The Roman empire encompassed a large land mass stretching from Europe to Northern Africa as shown in the map below.

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The Roman empire encompassed 1.6 million square miles of area, roughly about half the size of the United States’ 3.7 million square miles. If you look at an overlay of the Roman empire compared to the United States, It would look like it was just about as big, but you have to take into consideration the area of the Mediterranean Sea.

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So where am I going with all of this?

If we look at history as a guild to the way we should live in future generations, History could be considered a bible of what to and what not to do. As a matter of fact, the bible does hold a ton of history and does tell us how we should and should not be living.

As I look around me on a daily basis, I see the fall of Rome. I see it here in the United States, I see it in Europe and I see it in Asia.

The wrangling of political powers, international relations, mysterious diseases that appear overnight and turn into world-wide pandemics, I see famine that it still prevalent, while the leaders of those countries sit in luxury, eating till their stomachs explode, all the while, they ignore the lessons of history.

The shear arrogance is not only incomprehensible, but it is beyond baffling. As to think that it could never happen to them, is much like a career criminal believing that they could never be caught or die in the line of committing a crime.

If we are to compare our current world political stage with the demise of the Roman Empire, it does not take long to see the similarities and the future history to be written at some time in the future.

With all of this in mind, here are the eight main reasons that the Roman Empire collapsed. While reading these reasons, it not hard to compare them to the troubles that we as a human race face today.

1) Invasions by Barbarian tribes

The most straightforward theory for Western Rome’s collapse pins the fall on a string of military losses sustained against outside forces. Rome had tangled with Germanic tribes for centuries, but by the 300s “barbarian” groups like the Goths had encroached beyond the Empire’s borders. The Romans weathered a Germanic uprising in the late fourth century, but in 410 the Visigoth King Alaric successfully sacked the city of Rome. The Empire spent the next several decades under constant threat before “the Eternal City” was raided again in 455, this time by the Vandals. Finally, in 476, the Germanic leader Odoacer staged a revolt and deposed the Emperor Romulus Augustulus. From then on, no Roman emperor would ever again rule from a post in Italy, leading many to cite 476 as the year the Western Empire suffered its deathblow.

2) Economic troubles and over-reliance on slave labor

Even as Rome was under attack from outside forces, it was also crumbling from within thanks to a severe financial crisis. Constant wars and overspending had significantly lightened imperial coffers, and oppressive taxation and inflation had widened the gap between rich and poor. In the hope of avoiding the taxman, many members of the wealthy classes had even fled to the countryside and set up independent fiefdoms. At the same time, the empire was rocked by a labor deficit. Rome’s economy depended on slaves to till its fields and work as craftsmen, and its military might had traditionally provided a fresh influx of conquered peoples to put to work. But when expansion ground to a halt in the second century, Rome’s supply of slaves and other war treasures began to dry up. A further blow came in the fifth century, when the Vandals claimed North Africa and began disrupting the empire’s trade by prowling the Mediterranean as pirates. With its economy faltering and its commercial and agricultural production in decline, the Empire began to lose its grip on Europe.

3) The rise of the Eastern Empire

The fate of Western Rome was partially sealed in the late third century, when the Emperor Diocletian divided the Empire into two halves—the Western Empire seated in the city of Milan, and the Eastern Empire in Byzantium, later known as Constantinople. The division made the empire more easily governable in the short term, but over time the two halves drifted apart. East and West failed to adequately work together to combat outside threats, and the two often squabbled over resources and military aid. As the gulf widened, the largely Greek-speaking Eastern Empire grew in wealth while the Latin-speaking West descended into economic crisis. Most importantly, the strength of the Eastern Empire served to divert Barbarian invasions to the West. Emperors like Constantine ensured that the city of Constantinople was fortified and well guarded, but Italy and the city of Rome—which only had symbolic value for many in the East—were left vulnerable. The Western political structure would finally disintegrate in the fifth century, but the Eastern Empire endured in some form for another thousand years before being overwhelmed by the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s.

4) Over expansion and military overspending

At its height, the Roman Empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Euphrates River in the Middle East, but its grandeur may have also been its downfall. With such a vast territory to govern, the empire faced an administrative and logistical nightmare. Even with their excellent road systems, the Romans were unable to communicate quickly or effectively enough to manage their holdings. Rome struggled to marshal enough troops and resources to defend its frontiers from local rebellions and outside attacks, and by the second century the Emperor Hadrian was forced to build his famous wall in Britain just to keep the enemy at bay. As more and more funds were funneled into the military upkeep of the empire, technological advancement slowed and Rome’s civil infrastructure fell into disrepair.

5) Government corruption and political instability

If Rome’s sheer size made it difficult to govern, ineffective and inconsistent leadership only served to magnify the problem. Being the Roman emperor had always been a particularly dangerous job, but during the tumultuous second and third centuries it nearly became a death sentence. Civil war thrust the empire into chaos, and more than 20 men took the throne in the span of only 75 years, usually after the murder of their predecessor. The Praetorian Guard—the emperor’s personal bodyguards—assassinated and installed new sovereigns at will, and once even auctioned the spot off to the highest bidder. The political rot also extended to the Roman Senate, which failed to temper the excesses of the emperors due to its own widespread corruption and incompetence. As the situation worsened, civic pride waned and many Roman citizens lost trust in their leadership.

6) The arrival of the Huns and the migration of the Barbarian tribes

The Barbarian attacks on Rome partially stemmed from a mass migration caused by the Huns’ invasion of Europe in the late fourth century. When these Eurasian warriors rampaged through northern Europe, they drove many Germanic tribes to the borders of the Roman Empire. The Romans grudgingly allowed members of the Visigoth tribe to cross south of the Danube and into the safety of Roman territory, but they treated them with extreme cruelty. According to the historian Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman officials even forced the starving Goths to trade their children into slavery in exchange for dog meat. In brutalizing the Goths, the Romans created a dangerous enemy within their own borders. When the oppression became too much to bear, the Goths rose up in revolt and eventually routed a Roman army and killed the Eastern Emperor Valens during the Battle of Adrianople in A.D. 378. The shocked Romans negotiated a flimsy peace with the barbarians, but the truce unraveled in 410, when the Goth King Alaric moved west and sacked Rome. With the Western Empire weakened, Germanic tribes like the Vandals and the Saxons were able to surge across its borders and occupy Britain, Spain and North Africa.

7) Christianity and the loss of traditional values

The decline of Rome dovetailed with the spread of Christianity, and some have argued that the rise of a new faith helped contribute to the empire’s fall. The Edict of Milan legalized Christianity in 313, and it later became the state religion in 380. These decrees ended centuries of persecution, but they may have also eroded the traditional Roman values system. Christianity displaced the polytheistic Roman religion, which viewed the emperor as having a divine status, and also shifted focus away from the glory of the state and onto a sole deity. Meanwhile, popes and other church leaders took an increased role in political affairs, further complicating governance. The 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon was the most famous proponent of this theory, but his take has since been widely criticized. While the spread of Christianity may have played a small role in curbing Roman civic virtue, most scholars now argue that its influence paled in comparison to military, economic and administrative factors.

8) Weakening of the Roman legions

For most of its history, Rome’s military was the envy of the ancient world. But during the decline, the makeup of the once mighty legions began to change. Unable to recruit enough soldiers from the Roman citizenry, emperors like Diocletian and Constantine began hiring foreign mercenaries to prop up their armies. The ranks of the legions eventually swelled with Germanic Goths and other barbarians, so much so that Romans began using the Latin word “barbarus” in place of “soldier.” While these Germanic soldiers of fortune proved to be fierce warriors, they also had little or no loyalty to the empire, and their power-hungry officers often turned against their Roman employers. In fact, many of the barbarians who sacked the city of Rome and brought down the Western Empire had earned their military stripes while serving in the Roman legions.