What is it that interests us about history? I can't speak for everyone, but for me, it's the personal stories of those who have gone on before us. Their struggles, dreams, and humourous happenings can inspire us to carry their legacy forward and can also help us to avoid repeating their mistakes.
It's important we view history with an understanding of the period. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of those who lived it, rather than reading into it our modern viewpoints. For an extreme example, a surprising number of people in Europe, before the Second World War, were open to the rise of Adolf Hitler, or his movement anyway. We may judge them in retrospect, using a modern framework, but their view wasn't based on supporting Nazism. In the early days, many saw Hitler as a way to stop the spread of Communism coming from Russia. Things didn't turn out the way they thought, but hindsight is twenty-twenty, so we can see that now.
This is why a first-person historical perspective, can be the most effective. When we lay aside our preconceived notions and opinions drawn from more current events, we are able to see through the eyes of someone else's time. Through the personal stories in history, we meet people who lived in a familiar, yet strangely different, world. While learning about this by-gone world, we can assess what we've gained, and what we've lost. This can give us a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices that made our lives possible. It reminds us to appreciate time proven traditions, the wisdom of our elders, and in addition, our veterans.
Almost paradoxically, looking backward can help us advance forward. Not only can we appreciate what once was, but we can use the mentalities of early pioneers to rethink and re-approach our current society. No matter our stance or background, anyone can easily get laser-focused on doing things our own way. Putting ourselves in the shoes of people throughout history can offer us alternative ways of approaching our world today.
As a Christian, I find this approach very helpful when assessing my Christian beliefs. I need to put myself in the shoes of the people in the Bible, to understand how I should apply it in my own life today. I need to put aside my own cultural and circumstantial ideas first, to be able to view things of another time properly. Going back to the basics, reading the gospels, and the history of the early church in the Book of Acts, can give us a more accurate picture. The same is true of other periods in history, not just history during the time the Bible was written. If we go back to the basics of the founding of our societies, the later disruptions of those goals, whether good or bad, we gain an understanding of why we're where we are today. Then we can start to determine if we are where we should be. This works for the evaluation of our personal lives as well.
Whether a Biblical, other international, national, local, or family history, I encourage you to look into history. Put aside your “Post-conceived” notions (perspectives of history made after it happened), and try to understand what the people at the time were experiencing. You might be surprised by what you find!