50 Funny And Accurate History Memes For Everyone Who Wants To Learn More About Our Past (New Pics)
Through history, we learn how past societies, governments, cultures, and technologies were built, how they operated, and how they have changed over time. This knowledge can then help us to get a more detailed picture of where we stand today and what to expect from the future.
But time is precious, and you don't always get the chance to dissect a book on what shaped the present. Luckily, though, the internet has more to offer than just pdfs. It also has plenty of jpegs.
Continuing from where we left off last time, we at Bored Panda put together a new collection of posts from the subreddit r/HistoryMemes and the Instagram account History in Memes. You get to see the first pig to fly, poke fun at Americans naming their cities, and much, much more. Enjoy!
But why bother with history in the first place? Well, Peter N. Stearns, a professor at George Mason University, said that it's vital to our lives even though we like to live in the present and plan for the future.
"In the first place, history offers a storehouse of information about how people and societies behave," Stearns wrote. "Understanding the operations of people and societies is difficult, though a number of disciplines make the attempt. An exclusive reliance on current data would needlessly handicap our efforts. How can we evaluate war if the nation is at peace—unless we use historical materials? How can we understand genius, the influence of technological innovation, or the role that beliefs play in shaping family life, if we don't use what we know about experiences in the past?"
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The professor highlighted that some social scientists attempt to formulate laws or theories about human behavior but even these recourses depend on historical information, except for in limited, often artificial cases in which experiments can be devised to determine how people act.
"Major aspects of a society's operation, like mass elections, missionary activities, or military alliances, cannot be set up as precise experiments. Consequently, history must serve, however imperfectly, as our laboratory, and data from the past must serve as our most vital evidence in the unavoidable quest to figure out why our complex species behaves as it does in societal settings."
This, fundamentally, is why we can not stay away from history, Stearns said. "It offers the only extensive evidential base for the contemplation and analysis of how societies function, and people need to have some sense of how societies function simply to run their own lives."
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The second reason history is inescapable as a subject of serious study stems from the first. "The past causes the present, and so the future," Stearns said. "Any time we try to know why something happened—whether a shift in political party dominance in the American Congress, a major change in the teenage suicide rate, or a war in the Balkans or the Middle East—we have to look for factors that took shape earlier."
Sometimes fairly recent history will suffice to explain a major development, but we often need to backtrack more to identify the causes of change.
"Only through studying history can we grasp how things change; only through history can we begin to comprehend the factors that cause change; and only through history can we understand what elements of an institution or a society persist despite change."
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History well told — either through text, pictures, or any other medium — is beautiful. Many historians know the importance of dramatic and skillful writing (as well as of accuracy). They understand that with proper form they can transform a seemingly "dry" unappealing story to something that deeply moves the general public.
"Biography and military history appeal in part because of the tales they contain," Stearns said. "History as art and entertainment serves a real purpose, on aesthetic grounds but also on the level of human understanding. Stories well done are stories that reveal how people and societies have actually functioned, and they prompt thoughts about the human experience in other times and places."
"The same aesthetic and humanistic goals inspire people to immerse themselves in efforts to reconstruct quite remote pasts, far removed from immediate, present-day utility," the historian explained.
History also provides a bridge to moral contemplation. Studying the stories of individuals and situations they've been in the past, whether we're talking about the Queen or Heath Ledger, allows us to test our own moral sense, to hone it against some of the real complexities people have faced in difficult settings.
"People who have weathered adversity not just in some work of fiction, but in real, historical circumstances can provide inspiration. 'History teaching by example' is one phrase that describes this use of a study of the past—a study not only of certifiable heroes, the great men and women of history who successfully worked through moral dilemmas, but also of more ordinary people who provide lessons in courage, diligence, or constructive protest."
History also helps people to find their identity, and this is actually one of the reasons why modern nations continue to encourage its teaching in some form.
"Historical data include evidence about how families, groups, institutions, and whole countries were formed and about how they have evolved while retaining cohesion. For many Americans, studying the history of one's own family is the most obvious use of history, for it provides facts about genealogy and (at a slightly more complex level) a basis for understanding how the family has interacted with larger historical change," Stearns said.
Even if we take a step back and look at institutions, businesses, and other social units, such as ethnic groups, we can see that they also use history for similar purposes.
"Merely defining the group in the present pales against the possibility of forming an identity based on a rich past," Stearns explained. "And of course, nations use identity history as well ... Histories that tell the national story, emphasizing distinctive features of the national experience, are meant to drive home an understanding of national values and a commitment to national loyalty."
So if you find yourself unable to stop scrolling through this list, relax. You're not wasting your time. On the contrary, you might be growing in more ways than you might imagine.
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But with that being said, there are fewer people studying the subject. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, we had 34,642 history majors in 2008. Fast forward to 2017, and the count was just 24,266. Most of that decline occurred after 2012, with a notable single-year drop of more than 1,500 between 2016 and 2017.
However, that might just be temporary. Writing for the American Historical Association's blog Perspectives on History, Northeastern University's Benjamin M. Schmidt pointed out that the history major has had low points before. The discipline weathered a significant decline between 1969 and 1985, when the major dropped by 66 percent.
(At the time, those numbers were linked to higher education’s boom in the '60s that saw the discipline's rapid expansion and subsequent bust when higher education growth slowed in the '70s.)
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Schmidt also said that the anxiety over career prospects for history majors is probably misguided, since we know that students with history BAs disperse into a wide variety of careers.
"The increasingly common practice of lumping a wide variety of disparate fields together as STEM is probably giving students and their parents excessive expectations about the earning potential conferred by many science and technology degrees," he wrote.
"While engineers in their 20s can indeed make salaries that would make most full professors of history jealous, science, technology, and math majors are much more of a mixed bag. Extensive data ... released out of the University of Texas system do show history majors making less than most science fields after controlling for the university they attended. But they appear to make more than many other fields, including English, psychology, sociology, and even a number of biology-adjacent majors (such as zoology, ecology, and neurobiology, though traditional biology majors make somewhat more)."
Schmidt said that ultimately, the long-term state of the discipline will rest on how it adapts to a cohort of students—and their parents—who are much less receptive to arguments for the liberal arts than previous generations have been.
He noted that many departments and organizations have already worked out useful ways to articulate the purpose of the major. These are undoubtedly helping attract and retain students.
Who knows, maybe these memes will also help 'sell' history.