The Duty to Understand History

For it is our duty to understand the origins of our own history and its development; and the achievements of Peoples and of Kings.  For the careful study of the past enlarges our foresight in contemporary affairs and affords to citizens and to monarchs lessons of incitement or warning in the ordering of public policy.  From History, also, we draw our store of examples of moral precepts.”  Leonardo Bruni, “On Studies and Letters,” ed. Kenneth R. Bartlett, The Civilization of the Italian Renaissance (Toronto 1992), p. 280 [Emphasis added]

Leonardo Bruni served as chancellor of the Republic of Florence in the first half of the fifteenth century.  His life and writings embody the civic humanism of the Renaissance humanists.  In this letter he includes the study of history among the most significant subjects.  Particularly, he emphasized that rulers and citizens must study history to inform their own actions.

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