History is a great tool for learning. It makes up for personal lack of experience and it is how mankind could advance exponentially.
Most of our modern society has made most of its advancement in only the last century. A decimal in our recorded/written history. The earliest unwritten history dates back to Mesopotamia 10,000 BC but little was known.
But lets just look at China as I am more familiar with the topic.
From the changes in the dynasties, ruling over China, we can see an appalling trend of how one dynasty switch to the next, or how dynasties fall. The more appalling thing is, this same trend continued for 2-3 thousand years right till the recent end of Qing Dynasty in 1912. Yes, it was not that long ago.
XIA 夏 Dynasty (2100BC – 1600BC): Emperor 舜 passed the throne to 禹 who made significant contribution to the country by stopping the floods that plagued the population. His works enabled massive agricultural success and was loved by the people. Instead of passing the throne to the next best candidate, 禹 passed the throne to his son and began the hereditary rule of the dynasties. Due to passing on of the baton from generations to generations, Emperor 傑, the last of 禹 family had little capability, corrupt and care little for the people. Massive revolts, rebels and unhappiness among the people gave rise to strong tribes that are better able to help themselves. Eventually, under the support of other tribes, 商 overthrowed the 夏 kingdom to become the next emperor and the beginning of 商 dynasty.
SHANG 商 dynasty (1600BC – 1046BC): After taking over, 商 care deeply for the people and received the people’s support. As the throne was pass down generations after, internal struggle for power and the throne caused internal divides and spurred many other tribes to rise up in power again. 周 took chance and overthrowed 商 when 商 eventually had no willing nor loyal troops to defend the throne.
ZHOU 周 Dynasty (1045BC – 256BC): After overthrowing 商，周 distributed power among contributors. Overtime, this decentralized system thin out relationships especially so as later generation rulers became more incapable and selfish. The failure of the ruling party again gave rise to multiple tribes that grew in power and eventually self proclaim independence and ruler of their own lands, giving rise to the era of 春秋戰國 the warring states.
Warring States 春秋戰國 (770BC – 221BC): 秦 QIN deployed the first ever 商鞅变法, in short, “Singapore” system (sort of) and grew in power immensely. Eventually 秦 united the entire China and started 秦 Dynasty which united China. (if you are interested and can understand Mandarin at an advance level: https://baike.baidu.com/item/商鞅变法)
QIN 秦 Dynasty (221BC – 207BC): Emperor 秦 died unfortunately due to illness after only ruling for a decade. Subsequent ruler over-pressured the people with heavy taxes, penalties and policies. This led to a huge rebellion and 秦 was overthrowed after only ruling for 2 generations.
HAN 漢 Dynasty (202BC – 202AD): Generations after 劉邦 ruled 漢 dynasty, it fell into the hands of generations of infant and child emperors as puppets. Massive internal struggle for power gave rise to a huge rebellion 黃巾起義 leading to the fall of 漢 and the rise of the Three Kingdoms 三國.
*I will skip over some parts as it gets too complicated during the Three Kingdom era with multiple kings ruling at the same time. (storyline so rich that it of course it got made into endless popular books, tv series and etc.
TANG 唐 Dynasty (618 – 907): The late 唐 Dynasty were all ruled by incapable descendants which stirred unhappiness and ultimately revolts. This leads to China being broken down into multiple states with different rulers again.
SONG 宋 Dynasty (960 – 1279): United China once again. However, the famous 岳飛 died here due to again incapable rulers in the late generations and power struggle of the ministers. Mongol army took chance and successfully invaded and took over as the next 元 Dynasty.
YUAN 元 Dynasty (1271 – 1368): Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan era. Late dynasty laid heavy taxes on the people, serious racial discrimination against the Hans from the Mongols. Hyperinflation due to over printing of money. Leading to revolt by the people.
MING 明 Dynasty (1368 – 1644): Overthrew 元 Dynasty and ruled China as Han 漢 people once again. Taxes were reduced and corruption was heavily punished, massive fiscal/monetary policies to boost the bottom level population and curb the rich. However, late generations again fell to internal struggle for power, also with lack of interest in governing matters leading to poor management over governance of China. Capable officials to handle governing matters were also seriously lacking in numbers resulting in many empty positions and matters unattended. 清 successfully invaded and overthrew 明.
QING 清 Dynasty (1636 – 1911): Returned farmlands to the farmers, encouraged development of barren lands. Abolished tax per headcount which exploded China population rising to 40% of world population. Abolished low class status system discrimination. Later generations lack capability, leading to internal power struggles, corruptions, widespread opium trade and addiction and ultimately the destruction of the dynasty by multiple external and internal forces.
And we have reached the modern era.
The above is just my own summary and there’s a lot more details on what exactly happened. But if you could just pick out one trend from all these dynasties and why they fell, it all leads to ill management, mistreating the population and the divide of the people. No matter how big the country is, if the people are not united, it will be over taken by a smaller group of united people.
Although history may not do a good extrapolation of the future but clearly we can see that history will repeat if history is repeated.
What may be the difference then to alter this seemingly repeating trend? We have came about 100 years into the modern era already.
Information record, transfer and availability. We are just better equipped with historical knowledge/data in this modern era and the only thing we hope for is for the leaders to intelligently use these data for good. And hopefully everyone can be educated with such rich historical knowledge (not just from china) to make purposeful decision for good.
So.. enjoy your thinking after this =)
Thank you for reading.