3. Applied History

3.1 What is Applied History ?

‘Applied History’ is also known as ‘Public History’. ‘Applied History’ is a field of study concerned with the application of history for the benefit of people in the contemporary and future times. Knowledge of history is useful as it can provide guidance in finding solutions to contemporary social issues and incorporate them in the social planning. Knowledge of history is essential for this purpose.

The projects and programmes related to applied history can create opportunities for people to participate along with the technical experts. Their participation in the capacity of tourists visiting museums and ancient sites is also important. Tourism creats interest in history among people. They can volunteer to participate in the conservation and preservation projects of their own city or town or village.

3.2 Applied History and Research in Various Fields

History is about the past events. The way our present life style is shaped, is dependent on the historical chain of events. Historical events relate to various fields like politics, social and religious structure of a community, philosophy, technology and science, etc. Each of these fields have their own history of building knowledge. The direction of future development in every field is dependent on the state of available knowledge. Hence, the method of history can prove to be of value in the research of various fields. For example,

  • Philosophy : The history of philosophy helps in understanding the origin of various ideologies, the intellectual traditions giving rise to those ideologies and their historical development. Philosophy needs language as a medium of expression. In order to understand the philosophical expression, knowledge of the history of language proves useful.
  • Science : The history of science helps in understanding the chronological order of scientific discoveries, inventions and theories. It can also help to understand the cause-effect chain that led to those discoveries and inventions. It is said that ‘need’ is the mother of inventions. Scientific discoveries/inventions are often the effects of human efforts to fulfil a need and also curiosity. These efforts are based on already available scientific knowledge. Knowledge of history of science helps in understanding the factors that facilitated a scientific discovery/ invention and also its chronology.
  • Technology : The history of technology helps in understanding the changes and their causes in the field of agricultural production, commodity production, architecture, engineering, etc. Scientific discoveries/inventions and technological advancement are mutually dependent on each other. Knowledge of science and technology was very important at every step from the making of stone tools to agricultural production in the evolution of mankind. Later the advancement of science promoted the mechanisation of production. It is necessary to know the history of technology in order to understand the development of mechanisation and the mutual dependence between science and technology.
  • Industry and Commerce : The field of mutual social transactions expands with the growth of industry and trade. It also promotes continuous development of the network of cultural interactions. It is an integral part of the industrial and commercial management. It is essential to understand the history of these processes. The nature of the market and commerce has continued to change. Accordingly, the nature of human relationships and the social organisation also has continued to change. To understand this development it is necessary to study the history of culture, social organisation and economic institutions.
  • Management Studies : In order to understand various factors involved in the chain of production such as means of production, human resources and processes of production, as well as the chain of market and sales management, etc. it is essential to have a knowledge of similar functional systems of the past. It is essential to understand the psychological character of people working at various levels in the chain of production and marketing for healthy management. In order to achieve it, understanding of the social and economic institutions that support the industrial and commercial processes is important. Knowledge of history in this regard makes the management at various levels easier.
  • Arts : It is important to understand the development of various art forms with the help of their style of expression and their foundation in the form of intellectualemotional-cultural traditions. The key to the expressions in any art form, emotional temperament of the artist and the developmental history of the respective art form can be understood with the help of cultural history.
  • Humanities : Humanities include disciplines like history, archaeology, sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, etc. To understand the history of the origin and development of these disciplines is an essential part of their learning. All disciplines are supposed to have their origin in philosophy. Ancient people all over the world tried to speculate in order to understand the relationship between the universe and human existence. It gave rise to various mythological stories about the origin of this world, the universal order, human life, gods and goddesses, rituals and their philosophical explanation. Roots of philosophical ponderings are to be found in these mythological stories. Various disciplines under humanities have theoretical foundations based on philosophical theories. Only historical knowledge can help us in understanding these developmental stages.

3.3 Applied History and Our Present

People often ask about the practical value of history. The answer to the question about the nature of applied history answers this question as well. The visible and invisible relics of the past exist in the present. We nurture some kind of curiosity, attraction toward them. We wish to know more about their history because they represent the creative thoughts and traditions of our ancestors. It is our heritage. It helps in building our identity. The history of our heritage links us with our origin. Hence it becomes necessary to preserve and conserve it for future, for our benefit as well as for the benefit of future generations. Applied history is concerned with the preservation and conservation of our heritage and make it accessible to people. Heritage management creates opportunities of employment. In brief, applied history can be described as understanding of our present with the help of history and finding right direction for the benefit of our future.

3.4 Management of Cultural and Natural Heritage

(a) Cultural Heritage : It is in the form of human creation. It is of two types – tangible and intangible.

  1. Tangible Cultural Heritage : This type of cultural heritage includes ancient sites, buildings, artefacts, manuscripts, sculptures, paintings, etc.
  2. Intangible Cultural Heritage : This type of cultural heritage includes the following things –

 Oral traditions and their language

Traditional knowledge

 Social customs and rituals of celebrating festivals

Styles of performing arts

 Certain traditional skills

Communities, groups who represent such traditions, Customs and skills

(b) Natural Heritage : the concept of natural heritage gives importance to the thought of biodiversity. It includes the following things –

 (1) Fauna (2) Flora (3) Ecology and geomorphic characteristics which is crucial for sustaining the flora and fauna of a particular region.

It is essential for the benefit of future generations to preserve our heritage. UNESCO, the global organisation has announced some directives with the objective of promoting the cultural and natural heritage. On the basis of those directives list of sites and traditions are declared as ‘World Heritage’.

The list of UNESCO’s World Natural Heritage now includes Western Ghats. The Kaas plateau in the District Satara, is also a part of the Western Ghats.

‘Cultural and Natural Heritage Management’ is one of the main aspects of applied history. The work of conservation and preservation of the Cultural Heritage falls under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India and India’s State Departments of Archaeology. Beside, INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) is actively working in this field. The work of conservation and preservation of cultural and natural heritage requires participation of experts from various fields. They need to be duly aware of the cultural, social and political histories of the heritage site. Principles of applied history are useful in creating the awareness among them. Thus,

  • The operations necessary for the conservation, preservation and development of the heritage site can be handled without causing any change in its original state.
  • The local social structure and psychology of the local people, challenges faced by them in the present situations and their expectations can be surveyed in detail.
  • Due precautions can be taken to avoid hurting sentiments of the local people while completing the projects of conservation, preservation and development of a heritage site.
  • Participation of the local people in the project can be facilitated.
  • Systematic plan can be designed to employ the local skills in a creative way and create better opportunities of livelihood.

3.5 Affiliated Professional Fields

Knowledge of history can be supportive in the decision making with regard to respective legal provisions and public policies in the following fields :

  1. Museums and Archives
  2. Preservation and conservation of historical site
  3. Tourism and Hospitality
  4. Entertainment and Mass Media

Every field mentioned here requires expert personnel with specialised skills. For example, architects, engineers, historians, archaeologists, museum curators, sociologists, archive management professionals, legal experts, skilled photographers, etc. Of course, this is just a representative list. The help of experts from many more fields is required. These experts need to have adequate knowledge of the ancient sites, the historical background of the structural remains and artefacts. Projects in the field of applied history can create various opportunities for these professionals.

In this lesson we learnt about the role of applied history in public training programmes for understanding the importance of history, for creating social awareness regarding the conservation, preservation of our cultural and natural heritage, using knowledge of history for this purpose, to enhance the professional skills of people and to develop industrial, commercial field, to carry out preparatory work and plan for effective implementation of heritage projects, etc. It is essential to avoid vandalising of historic and public places and to ensure that they are Cultural Heritage Tangible Intangible preserved for the benefit of future generations.