History Repeats Itself

Over break I watched a movie named Argo. It is a movie based on the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Just to briefly explain the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Iranians were not happy with their monarch named Shah Mohammad, due to his greediness and too strong of a desire for power, and thus overthrew and exiled him. The Shah, who had gotten cancer shortly after, was taken into the US for treatment. Outraged by this intake of the exiled Shah, the Iranians protested and demanded that the Shah be returned to Iran and be tried and possibly executed. Eventually, the angered people of Iran stormed the US Embassy and took hostages and kept some of them up to 444 days in Tehran. Without digressing too much, that is a very, very basic synopsis of the Iranian Hostage Crisis on which this movie was based on. My main point, however, is one of the main causes of this crisis. It all started with the overthrowing and eventual exile of a monarch who the people believed had too much wealth and became too self-indulgent with his power. Having just studied/written a paper about the French Revolution, especially since my topic was King Louis XVI, watching this movie triggered a connection to be made between the two. King Louis XVI, like the Shah was overthrown by his people and country because he had too much power. I realize that’s the whole point people wrote an essay on this topic, so many might think he did not rule as an absolute monarch, but the result was the same nonetheless. I’ve heard the statement, “history repeats itself” many times before, and now I can actually relate to it having researched King Louis XVI and watching this movie about the Iranian Hostage Crisis, which happened almost 200 years apart.

Even though I was reluctant to watch it at first,  Argo turned out to be a really good movie and I recommend it anyone looking to learn some history or to anyone just looking for a good movie to watch.

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6 Responses to History Repeats Itself

  1. Heather Milke says:

    This is a very interesting point, Alex. I definitely see how history does repeat itself not just in terms of the situation with Louis XVI in the French Revolution, but also in the Industrial Revolution. The other day in class Dr. Korfhage was talking about how every city has to undergo the urbanization process it becomes a large, industrial city. After reading the document on the conditions of Manchester (“The Condition of the Working-Class in England” by Friedrich Engels) Dr. Korfhage explain that every city that industrializes goes through a similar period of lack of sanitation and over-crowding. This too is history repeating itself in a way. The same with happened with Manchester, New York, and is still happening to cities today as they grow and industrialize. Its very interesting to see all the moments in where similar situations occur and it is also interesting to think about why history repeats itself.

  2. Dr. K says:

    I like the connection, Alex. We’ll be studying the Iranian Revolution this spring, so we’ll have a chance to explore parallels in more detail.

    A deeper question, in my opinion, is why does history repeat itself? Why didn’t the Shah learn from the mistakes of Louis XVI (and Charles I and Nicholas II and all the other autocrats that have been overthrown in modern history)? Why don’t developing countries today learn from the experiences of Britain and keep their cities cleaner? Is it that people are stupid, or is there something inevitable about the process of history?

  3. AlexP says:

    Heather and Dr. Korfhage: I had this same thought when I thought about this concept. I kept wondering why people kept repeating the same mistakes over and over again, even though they knew the consequences. I came to the conclusion that it is intrinsic for humans to keep replicating the same actions throughout the course of history. It is simply just human nature and after all, we are all humans, even if the time difference is sometimes several centuries apart. I would have thought that humans would develop and learn over time, but apparently that is not the case and that it is the same nature that caused Louis XVI to grow power hungry as the nature that caused the Shah to become so greedy for absolute control. Adding on to your second question, Dr. Korfhage, I think it is inevitable and is not in the power of humans to control. One more thing I thought about was that if humans were capable of learning from their mistakes and made sure things didn’t happen more than once, then things that happened during the 18th century, would not have happened in the 20th century and that all of the previous problems would have been corrected by the time we were all even born. Evidently, that is not the case, as there are still things happening today that happened centuries ago. The one good thing out of this, according to my theory anyway, is that at least us humans aren’t stupid, and that it’s human nature dictating this.

    • Will says:

      Alex, you are right, history does repeat itself quite often, and it is interesting to question why autocrats throughout history have not attempted to avoid the conflicts that their predecessors encountered. This, in my opinion, is where the question of what role does human nature play in decision making arises. Many upon, many sadistic, power-hungry and cruel leaders have gained exceptionally large amounts of power, only to be crushed by rebellion. So why don’t these rulers realize that being self-centered is bad, and not in the best interest of their people? The answer, is that they do, but do not care. These rulers are self-interested with little concern for the well-being of their subjects. They are aware of their potential consequences, yet do not care because they are absorbed in their desire to gain more, and more, and more. This is why history repeats itself: humans are well aware of the potential fallout of their actions, yet are blinded by their drive to make more and more material gains.

      • Dr. K says:

        Or perhaps they hope they’ll get lucky. Not everyone tyrant is overthrown–Mao and Stalin, for example, were never overthrown, and they were two of the bloodiest dictators of the 20th century.

  4. Alyssa says:

    Alex-
    I like the connection that you made between the Shah and Louis XVI. In my history class, we are currently studying the French Revolution, and Louis XVI’s greedy and tyrant-like style of ruling has been something that comes up a lot and that I have thought about quite often. I find the way you connected him to the Shah very interesting, and I wonder if you have thought about Louis XVI and the Shah’s connections with other rulers in the past as well, such as Stalin, or even Hitler? Well written post though- you raise some very good and interesting points in here.

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