What Can We Learn from the History of The Rocks Sydney


Why study and learn history? Will it be more useful to study engineering instead where there’s practical application? Why take the time to study the past in this age of rapid changes and progress?

It’s mostly about the joy of learning and discovery. If we only focus on history’s utility, surely we’ll get disappointed. Much has changed through the centuries and the lessons of the past might not be exactly practical and useful today. Although those who don’t remember the mistakes of the past are sure to repeat them, today’s challenges and mistakes are totally different from way back.

What can we learn from the history of The Rocks Sydney

Specifically, what value can we get from learning the rich history of The Rocks? Yes, it adds variety to our tours and travels. After some time it gets boring and exhausting to visit the beach, parks and reserves and modern structures. Visiting the old roads and structures on the other hand could be a refreshing experience. The variety brings new life to our travel experiences.

It’s especially the case when we see the Fortune of War (Sydney’s oldest pub), Suez Canal (in The Rocks, this is a narrow passageway formerly known as Cornwall Lane) and Harrington Street (with a series of old small cottages). The experience is different from visiting a natural reserve because those are man-made structures. In parks and reserves we see flora and fauna at work. In contrast, we get an idea about the people’s past actions and achievements through the structures they left behind. It’s partly the reason for heritage conservation: for us to better see the architectural and engineering achievements of the people who came before us.

Is it only about variety and seeing past achievements? Studying history can also shed some light on what is happening today and where we are headed. To clarify, history may not be a useful tool for prediction, but history still illuminates or gives us an idea of the present and the future. For example, why were the Europeans able to establish global colonies instead of the Chinese, Africans, Arabians and other people? One strong possible explanation is that the Europeans gained early advantages in environment and agriculture. The favourable environment was a huge factor for them to form complex societies and advance the arts and sciences. This helped them develop the necessary technology and organisation to start and sustain long voyages. There are other factors of course. But with the study of history, it sheds some light on why some things happened instead of the alternatives.

We can also apply that way of thinking to The Rocks. Why is this place often called the “birthplace of modern Sydney”? One reason we can quickly come up with is that it’s on the edge of a natural harbour. These areas are where ships and people arrive. In other words, it’s an access point where goods and people can easily come in and come out. The result is that a society could form where residential and commercial activities are possible.

It’s a way of thinking where the instant we see a place, we can immediately come up with reasons why it has come to be. By studying history, we train our minds to trace the steps and how things ended up to what we see today. In other words, studying history is not just about learning who, what, where and when. It’s also about learning why and how and training our minds to see things in depth.

The Rocks is just one of the places to explore if you want to sharpen your mind. But it’s a good starting point where you can better appreciate the past (whether bright or dark) and add variety to your travel experiences. It’s also a great place for you to walk through the old passageways and slow down. Perhaps it’s what you need today in this age of speed and chaos. It’s time to revisit the past and set aside the future for a while. This will help you gain a fresh perspective about what’s around you and what’s to come.