What are your hopes for history as a discipline?
If we want to maintain history as a subject worthy of being taught even when increasingly more historical information can be found online, we need to seriously think about its raison d’être. We need to ask: What does history really teach us, why is it needed today? These questions seem to be even more pertinent when we talk about ancient history – why should people care about what happened more than two millennia ago? I do not often come across discussions on the philosophical aspects of this discipline; maybe because people working within the discipline love it, so they do not stop to ponder on its future or its relevance. They climb the mountain because it is there. However, I find it important to pose these questions, both in class and among colleagues.
One of the things I often tell students is that I would like to teach them critical thinking, and that history provides a toolbox they can take with them once they finish the course. This is increasingly important in the age of fake (news-, deep-, you name it). It may not be long before distinguishing true history from its other forms becomes impossible, and worse: irrelevant. My hope is that we, and the student generations we help shaping, will be able to prevent this.