We have detected that you are using an older version of Internet Explorer and to have access to all the features on this site, you will need to update your browser to Internet Explorer 8. Alternatively, download Mozilla Firefox or Chrome.

Why study history and WW2?

LAURENCE REES: Why study history and WW2 in particular?

ROBERT CITINO: There’s that old saw about those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat history. I don’t buy that because I just don’t subscribe to the notion of doom or fate. I don’t think history offers us a detailed instruction manual about what to do. I don’t think in a sense that we, so to speak, learn lessons from history that can be listed and bullet pointed on a sheet of paper. But in so far as what has happened in the past, and, more importantly, the reaction of human beings to what has happened in the past, gives us a bit more insight into what is happening in the present, I think that the endeavour is worthwhile.

Today, of course, we find British and American troops, and troops of other nationalities, warring in a far off land called Afghanistan. The very fact of knowing that they’re not the first to have done this, and that previous operations in Afghanistan have not always come to a satisfactory solution, I think is a cautionary tale and one that can help us understand what we are doing or perhaps should be doing in Afghanistan today.

LAURENCE REES: And why World War Two in particular then?

ROBERT CITINO: I think the problem of human life on the planet currently is still largely of our tendency to do violence to one another. Certainly there are others, the stock market is falling apart, my home state of Michigan is suffering badly as the auto industry is having its problems, global warming may destroy us all at some point in the future, but I think the danger is always there that today or tomorrow or next week some person, some group, some national leadership or group of nations may wish to do harm to their neighbours. And I think the problem of violence continues to plague us, and it never plagued the globe at any time like it did in the 1940s.The study of large scale violence and, more importantly, the study of human reaction to that large scale violence may give us insights as to how to learn to live with one another today.