History is full of people extolling the virtues of history. Chinese teacher Confucius urged his followers to “study the past if you would define the future”. German philosopher Marx warned that if we didn’t learn history we’d be doomed to repeat it “as farce”. And American chat show host Stephen Colbert said: “There’s an old saying about those who forget history. I don’t remember it, but it’s good.”
The point they were all trying to make (with various degrees of seriousness) is that history is not just interesting, it’s instructive. Which is why we’ve dedicated our March issue to the idea of Origins. You can learn a lot about the world by looking at where we’ve come from. Adventurer and scientist Tim Jarvis who we interviewed this month appreciates this better than most, having spent years meticulously recreating two expeditions from the heroic age of polar exploration.
“There’s an old saying about those who forget history. I don’t remember it, but it’s good.”
He wanted to understand the hardships endured by the great adventurers of the past, and in case of Douglas Mawson, prove that the explorer could have survived without needing to cannibalise the flesh of his fallen companions. Doing the journeys “as they did” taught Jarvis a lot, not just about the original explorers, but about himself.
He wasn’t the only person left awestruck by a brush with history in this month’s issue either. Photographer Dan Milner visited Ethiopia, the cradle of humanity, with a group of mountain bikers. He found himself amazed not only by the stunning landscapes of the Simien Mountains, but also by the warmth of the locals he met.