Learn English – why knowing your country’s history helps

Are you worried about the future? That’s normal when times are difficult. In this video I talk about the value, the benefit of reading history to understand the times.


Recently, I have been reading some history, American history. If you think politics are bad now you should read what went on in your country in the past.

(Intro: English without Fear where you can learn to speak English naturally, through listening to stories)

If you ask Americans today, they will tell you that our country is very divided. People on the left politically have different priorities than people on the right. We can’t even agree as a country about our most important problems.

The people on the left have one or two that they would say are the most important. But the people on the right think otherwise. They have different points of view. And because of that, people today in America are not very nice to each other. In fact, they are mean and vicious. They say hurtful things. 

Has it always been this bad? Well, if you don’t read history, if you don’t read the history of your country, you might think that and you might feel hopeless. Many Americans today feel hopeless about our country. But that’s because they don’t know their history.

Recently, I have been reading a book about the period of time before the American civil war. We are talking about 1820 to 1860 – those 40 years in America. That’s a long time ago. At the time, what happened in the 1860s is our country had a civil war. People from the North, soldiers, and people from the South, soldiers, went to war against each other and killed each other. It was terrible. 

What I’m reading about in this book is that period before the war happened. The two sides, the North and the South: slavery, owning people, and making them work for you was the issue. For the South, they viewed slaves as property. And they said:

“Nobody can tell me what I can or cannot do with my property. That is guaranteed by the Constitution, the US, the United States constitution!” 

That’s how they described the problem about slavery. The people in the North had a different way of describing the problem. They said:

“Every human being is made in the image of God and you can’t own, you can’t buy a human being.”

They, the people in the North, viewed owning somebody as very evil. So the reason nobody could get along is because each side described the problem differently. 

Things got so bad that before the Civil War started, people in Congress, our representatives, our legislature, those men brought guns into their meetings. One man wanted to have a duel with another man. A duel is when you take your gun and the other man takes his gun and you separate. I don’t know how many feet between you. And when somebody says three, two, one go! you turn around and try to shoot the other person dead.

By God’s grace, that never happened. But people fought in Congress. There were fistfights. It was terrible. The newspapers were awful, what people said. Today, people say awful things in the newspapers, online, on radio, on television, unkind, vicious, hurtful things. But nobody tried (tries) to shoot anybody in Congress. I think times were worse. In fact, our country went to war.

So, how do we think about our times now? Number one, read some of your history. Read some history of your country. That will give you perspective. That will help you relax and not be so worried. 

You might not be able to change how other people act. But what you and I can do is practice kindness. I believe that being kind in these difficult times here in America and probably in your country too, being kind looks like listening well to the other person, without interrupting them, without, we say ‘butting in’, without breaking into their conversation to say what you think. If you and I can listen well in order to understand the other person’s point of view, that will lower the tension. People will be less angry.

And, in the past we have gotten through crises, crises worse than now, by God’s grace. And so too, with God’s help, we will get through this crisis, this pandemic, whatever is going on in the world. 

So what about in your country? Has there been a time in your past that was worse than now? Tell me about it. Leave me a comment below this video and if you haven’t read any history recently, I recommend you doing that. You will feel better and you won’t worry as much, I think, about your country and the times. Well, that’s it for this episode. I’m Maria from English without Fear. Talk to you next time. 

(outro: Thanks for watching. For questions or comments, here’s my email.)

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