Time, Culture & the Universal Appeal of History
History is about two universal aspects of our experience: Time and Culture. Chances are, you have already noticed how difficult it is to escape Time. It shapes everything we do and think. Culture is no easier to escape than Time, though its powerful influence on our thoughts and actions is far more subtle, sometimes so subtle that we scarcely recognize it. We only begin to become aware of Culture when we start asking historical questions like, why do I tend to think and act this way, while someone from another place and time tends to think and act that way?
What, then, is Culture? It is a novel, a t.v. show, the government, a political campaign, religion, our family, the Super Bowl, a factory, a tax refund, a school, a S.W.A.T. team raid, and the list goes on endlessly. A more textbook definition might run like this. A culture is that intricate web of political and economic institutions, social norms and practices, and systems of knowledge and beliefs that a society creates in order to survive and flourish, as it confronts the challenges and gifts of its environment - natural, human, and sacred. If we were to think of Time as a river, we might think of Culture as a fleet of boats and ships that various societies have built to navigate the river safely and successfully toward its end. This metaphor points to another fascinating aspect of History. There is no privileged position along the shore from which we can study Culture. We can only seek to understand it as we navigate the waters in our own craft and exchange travelers' tales with other seafarers.
Because History is the study of Culture in Time, it is one of the most interdisciplinary fields of study in any university. It is about how politics, economics, society, science, art, literature, philosophy and religion have been woven together over time to create the cultures that make up today's world. If these are the types of "big picture" questions that interest you and if you are considering History as a way to get the most out of your undergraduate education at UST, click "Why Study History" for more information.