Mike’s five additional principles of history

Update: February, 2021. Now there are six.

Selecting from a list of 38 suggestions, followers of this blog chose their top 10 principles of historical knowledge to teach to students in school. (Due to a tie, a total of 11 key principles were identified.) I think this is a good list, but because results of the survey were limited, some important principles were necessarily left out.

This blog has its roots in a principle of history I discovered years ago while serving in an unsuccessful foreign war and additional principles that became evident while writing my book Future-Focused History Teaching. A few principles that I consider crucial didn’t make the list of 11, so I ask your indulgence in including them here.
-Mike Maxwell

  • Democracy is a difficult system of government to sustain. In ancient times and in modern times, democracies have repeatedly fallen to authoritarian rulers.
  • Epidemic diseases have repeatedly claimed countless lives and altered human societies.
  • Many or most military invasions of distant lands have failed over the long term.
  • Humans exhibit an instinct to exercise control over others, and humans exhibit a countervailing instinct to resist external control.
  • Leaders try to get their way by appealing to the emotions of their followers.
  • Even superpowers experience limits to their power.

I suspect the first and second items on this list would have made the first list if our reader survey were conducted today (February, 2021). I know that I value them a lot more today than I did a year ago.

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