Why is history important?

What can we learn from a 19th century Botanist’s story ?

I have a belief that history is important, sometimes I wonder why I believe such a thing. To help me firm up my belief I wrote down some thoughts which I would like to share with you.

Why is history important? Many books have been written on this topic by some very learned people. I decided not to tackle the big question but try to answer a smaller question related to my historical project about Allan Cunningham, botanist and geographic explorer, who lived in the early 19th century.

I asked myself this question Why is Allan Cunningham’s story important to know? After a bit of contemplation I wrote the following answer:

Allan Cunningham’s story demonstrates through action what can be achieved through tenacity, perseverance and a plan.

Tenacity probably comes first. What creates tenacious energy? I’m not sure but once you have it the energy needs to be harnessed to a plan. A plan maps purpose. With purpose a person can make a difference to the quality of their life and the life of others. If knowing history can help you do this then its important.

Allan Cunningham’s work made a difference to the world’s knowledge both scientific and geographic. His example of how to live life with tenacity and purpose demonstrates how it can be done, how you can make a difference.

A plan is a map of where you are going and where you’ve been. If you’re unwell, tired, bored, lacking enthusiasm, lacking energy, it won’t matter because there is a plan and tenacious energy. Allan was sick for nearly the whole of his adult life, a result of his deprivations on the exploratory journeys he experienced. It didn’t stop him, it just slowed him down. Without the distractions of electronic media he had time and his natural tenacity and sense of purpose gave him the energy to succeed.

Allan Cunningham’s accomplishments through adversity prove that an individual can achieve a lot when they persevere. Reading his inspirational story confirms this.

From Allan Cunningham’s story we learn: having a plan and following through can make a difference.

When Allan applied for the position of Botanical Collector in 1814, he wrote a postscript on the application which states quite clearly how he intended to live his life:

“it is a love of plants and to search for them in their wild state, and a wish to make myself useful in the capacity of a collector . . . it shall be the highest ambition of my life to exert myself in the performance of the requisite duties that constitute a collector, so that the Royal collection at Kew may exceed all other collections in the riches of new, beautiful and desirable plants. [Allan Cunningham Letter to Sir Joseph Banks 1814]

Source: Lionel Gilbert: The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney