Saturday, 10 August 2013

Who Owns the Past?

This was what I submitted for my final assignment of the course. I am not as creative as a lot of people who wrote odes, poems, etc. I just wrote what I felt. I hope you like it.
Option #1: Who owns the past?

Well, I really do not really know how to answer this assignment, but I am going to give it a go the way I understand it.

The past is something that happened before today, a few years ago, A hundred years ago and so on. I do not think there is any specific definition for this. It is a word used to describe events that occurred before a specific time which can vary from place to place or person to person etc. It is evident that a lot of things have happened or do happen to finally end up where we are in the world today (i mean situation wise). Historians, archaeologists and other people involved have been able to identify and document the lives of people hundreds and hundreds of years before now. The past is like a story of sorts.

I do not believe that the past belongs to any one person or any one place. It belongs to everyone and the world in it's entirety. Many different decisions and paths were taken before we get to where we are now. We can only second guess what people of a certain time were thinking based on their location at the time of some incident or in a situation and their physical behaviour. We cannot begin to imagine what would have been going through anyone's minds hence the point of second guessing. For example, when the British had control of India, there were many freedom fighters who stood up to fight for the independence of the country. One of them for example was Mahatma Gandhi who strongly believed in and followed a policy of 'ahimsa' (non-violence). Now let us imagine a situation in which he did not follow such a policy. There is a possibility that many more wars or fights may have happened and India may or may not have gotten it's independence when it did. Another part of history we can look at are the world wars. Thinking of how the countries were allied with each other, if even one country had later changed it's position, the course taken by the was may have been different than how we know it to be today. Thus the past ends up being a culmination of different events, people, decisions and actions that has led the world to arrive at where it is today.

Okay so I seem to have deviated a little. Moving back to topic, the past belongs to everyone. No one person has the right to claim the past or any event in the past. Archaeologically speaking, every structure, monument and other things that have been uncovered, belongs to not one person or nation but to the world as a whole. It should be available for everyone to view, cherish and understand as well as study.

Archaeology's dirty secrets as this course sought to explain are some basic things every person should be made aware of. I believe that it is important for every person to understand and appreciate the history and the legacy passed on to us from before and we should be careful and try to preserve what we can for the future.

I really hope I haven't strayed too much from the topic and I hope this response is alright because once I began writing, the words just wouldn't stop. I have really enjoyed this course and I will ensure more people are made aware about the need to preserve the architecture, artifacts and anything else we can for ourselves and the future. At the end of the day, it is all just one huge story that doesn't seem to have an ending.


  1. Namrata, I completely agree with your statement that the past belongs to no one person or group. We all have a responsibility to preserve the past for the future: "...when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (George Santayana)

  2. Hey!! Wow... It is heartening to know that someone agrees with my thoughts. It is true that if we do not learn from our mistakes or even others' mistakes, the mistakes tend to get repeated. That's why the saying learn from your mistakes, but also "Try and try until you succeed". We should share all historical knowledge with the world so that the future understands the past and hopefully we do not have any more wars like World War 2!

  3. I too agree that the past does not belong to one person or group. Where conservation becomes rather cloudy is that when that thing to be conserved is decided upon in terms of political ideology. Using the term rather loosely I can think of several sites in the UK that were conserved or demolished because of how they fitted into the perceptions of the parties controlling the planning process. For instance demolishing or allowing the demolition of mill buildings while conserving small country houses thus removing some evidence of working conditions in the 18th and 19th centuries. And on a change of ruling political party then demolishing the country houses or allowing them to fall into disrepair as they were a representation of a political elite. At a higher level the legislation set in place to protect the past may well reflect the philosophical beliefs of the party writing them. Such legislation then being modified by guidance notes etc produced with different values in mind.

  4. Not sure how to start a new subject but has anyone done any work on old field boundaries?