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What Can We Learn from Past Change?

Updated: May 23, 2020

By Isobel Chambers

I’ve never heard the word ‘unprecedented’ used more than in the past three months. There’s no doubt that we don’t really know how to return to normal. In fact, societal definitions of ‘normal’ need to be renewed and changed completely. But we know for a fact that we aren’t the first era of change, so what can we potentially learn from history?

Leading up to and during the 1920’s, the political activism for the fight for women’s equality led to a new societal perspective. Following this movement, the iconic flapper became representative of socio-political liberation. Whilst we won’t exactly be feeling ‘liberation’ for a while, it’s is the strength of activism that achieved goals. Globally, our predicament could be changed drastically if we channelled this same determination into the practices we all know keep us, and those around us, safe. However, I feel like there is a common theme of girls thinking that our current issues seem distant from us, places like the USA and Italy seem so far. But, if we all adopt this mentality, it is highly likely we will endure a second wave. What we learn from the 20’s is not that we should smash windows or host rallies, instead, adopt familiar qualities of determination and persistence to achieve our desired outcome.

The 60’s may bring to mind the Rolling Stones, Elizabeth Taylor and Lawrence of Arabia. But, rapid socio-political development and rejection of mainstream ideologies made for a remarkably interesting era of change. The counterculture of the 1960’s was driven by youth and focused on ideals of ecocentrism and pacifism that entirely rejected involvement in war and racism, as well as capitalism. The movement aiming for a sort of ‘Utopian Socialism’. The Hippie movement, in turn, aided and assisted the causes of the Civil rights movement, female equality and recreational drug use. But, what can we learn from this? I personally learnt that the measured rejection of mainstream thought and advice can result in great change. Restrictions being eased are a positive step for the economy, however, in the interest of profit over health advice, a return to a restaurant or even school may actually be endangering public health. The real growth during this return to normal should be aided by us and driven by our understanding of health.

Ultimately, these times are unprecedented and how we live may have to be altered drastically, revamping the definition of ‘normal’ entirely. However, many instances throughout history demonstrate characteristics of positive change that altered society for the better. It is vital we look to the past to understand and cope with our change now, for as much ease and comfort as possible.


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