Why should we study history? There are many potential answers to this question, but one of the most crucial is the way in which history helps us to better understand ourselves by illustrating just how universal our experiences and behaviors are. My favorite way of bringing this fact home is through having students look at primary source documents, and allowing them to figure out for themselves what the documents are telling us.
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Students are reminded of texts sent to their moms, when an ancient teenager complains to his mother about not getting him the new clothes that all the other kids are wearing. “The son of Adad-iddinam...(has) two new sets of clothes....his mother loves him, while you, you do not love me!” For better or for worse, teenagers and their parents haven’t changed much in 4,000 years. Perhaps even ancient history can, in fact, be relevant.
Louis Cohn-Haft, Source Readings in Ancient History, Vol. 1 (New York: T.Y. Crowell, 1965), 96-97.
Leo Oppenheim, trans., Letters from Mesopotamia, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), 84-85.