Does history focus on the negative?

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

How is it that western history focuses on the negative as opposed to moving forward and learning?

can someone give me examples from western history when the negative was focused on heavily?

when i say negative, i mean how history tends to focus a lot on the bad side of events as opposed to the good that came out of it…..

Traditionally, history was an enterprise sponsored by the ruling classes (hence, the famous expression, “history is written by the winners”). Traditionally, the ruling classes have been the military aristocracy and the priesthood. Put these two together, and you get a history with a strong emphasis on war and religion. Only in the 20th century, after fighting many a bitter battle among themselves, have the historians been able to shift some of the emphasis away from war and religion to culture, economy, demographics, environment, gender issues, age issues, etc. These days, almost every major history department is a battlefield between “military historians” and “cultural historians”, with each group trying to win the greatest possible number of academic appointments for its adepts.

But back to your question. A lot of the “negative” you talk about was considered positive back when it happened. Take the religious wars, for example. Today, we think of tolerance as a virtue. Back then, tolerance was considered a form of aiding and abetting heresy…

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