Pupil Contributions, Clifton College

Pupil Contributions, Clifton College

 AL Qazzaly Mohamed: 04/12/2017

History is a subject which provides a background and context for the current situations in which we are in today. It is therefore imperative to study and understand as much about the past as possible so that we are able to learn from past mistakes. There’s a quotation attributed to Karl Marx which states that “History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as a farce”. This illustrates that events from the past can reappear throughout time but in different manifestations and even though we may claim to be more sophisticated, we still make common errors in our judgements which can become almost farcical. As a society which has the privilege and freedom of being able to look back on history, we must make the most out of these opportunities and discuss events of the past. History Society provides people with the chance to do just that, whether it’s about the history of China or the Spanish conquest of the Inca trail.

I am particularly interested in understanding the true motives of individuals who constantly rise to power and affect the course of history. Following World War I, Germany was crippled by reparations and humiliated by the rest of Europe; it therefore seemed inevitable that they were going fight back. But why was it Adolf Hitler who gained such power and authority? Of course his attractive characteristics are what charmed the people of Germany and made them believe in his proposed policies. However, if there was not Hitler, would there have been such a backlash by Germany? Would someone else have risen to power and done the same thing? This promotes the debate between individuals controlling the course of history or the idea that history is a chain of events which brings about inevitable outcomes.

Another such individual who had a profound effect on a whole nation was Chairman Mao. Mao was an overtly unconventional leader who was shrewd and intelligent enough to rise to such power that he was seen as divine to many of his contemporaries. As you analyse the situation of China, from a shallow and distant perspective there seems to be decisions made by leaders at the time that seem rather illogical which in our minds might be easily solved. However, although history allows us to examine and learn about people’s viewpoints, we can never fully empathise with their situations. During the so-called ‘Great Leap Forward’ (1958-62) which sought to drastically improve agriculture and industry in China, over 30-45 million people died because of famine. It was, in fact, a drastic failure. Now many at this point would assume that Mao should have lost his position and perhaps even be severely punished for what he did. However, this never happened and Mao was able to reaffirm his Chairmanship due to the fact he was still so feared and few dared to oppose him, fearing the subsequent punishments which were to follow if they did. This is an example of how one mere person can control the thoughts and actions of hundreds of millions of people.

To discuss history, is also to discuss potential outcomes in the future. Whether it is regarding religion or politics, what has happened in the past is likely repeat itself in the future, unless we are able to use hindsight and discuss ways of solving these problems which haven’t been attempted in the past.