GRE Issue Essay 121
“The study of history places too much emphasis on individuals. The most significant movements were made possible not by famous few, but by groups of people whose identities have been long been forgotten”
History literally means the study of past. It give us details of past events, earlier civilizations, their trends, belief, activities as well as their achievements and failures which help us in understanding their culture, thereby relating it to the present. Along with this, history places importance on lives and accomplishments of eminent personalities, who made a difference in one way or the other.
The issue whether people at large or individuals in particular deserve more emphasis in history is not debatable, as history is a blend of both. If on one hand Indus Valley civilization reveals the architectural knowledge and life style of people of Harappa culture, then on the other hand study of Gupta period not only tells us about the society in general, but also about the specific achievements of the rulers of Gupta empire.
An individual is a part of society and his/her success in any of the fields, be it in politics, science, literature, sports, would not be possible without the role and influence of the society. None of the important events in history is merely caused by an individual. For instance in the history of India’s struggle for independence from the British even the likes of Gandhi and Nehru could not have done much without the support of common men. It was the desire and participation of the whole of the nation that brought the revolution and gave India her freedom. Still names of Gandhi Nehru, Subhash, Azad, Sarojini Naidu, Lala Lajpat Rai are few that are mentioned above all which is quite justified keeping in mind their grit and determination. Though the role of common men can not be overlooked it was the extraordinary zeal and effort of these few men who motivated the rest towards independence.
Likewise king Ashoka, a devout follower of Buddhism, is known to have established a golden era owing to peace and prosperity in his empire. One may question if it is right to credit Ashoka as an individual, instead of Buddhism-a religion followed by many. Ashoka’s achievements are lamented in history because he utilized his power, resources and wisdom to the fullest. Under the influence of the religion, he not only gave a boost to the spread of Buddhism but also practiced religious tolerance.
Similarly, there may be many such instances where more emphasis is laid upon a few individuals rather the larger group responsible for the cause. It is to be understood that these chosen few are highlighted because of their catalytic role played in the past. The few who took initiative, led and helped in accelerating the mass movements were the personalities whose lives, principles and achievements can be a source of inspiration for others. It would not be a biased practice to highlight such individuals who were the faces in crowd and led lives worth emulating. Moreover, it is not feasible to keep a record and discuss each individual of a group.
Analogously, each day as it passes becomes a part of history. However, not everyday and not every incident deserves a mention. Events that brought important changes and the men who were the driving force behind such activities are the ones who truly created history. Eventually the turning points produced either by sections of people or by individuals form history, without any bias.