History is not about dates & places. It is about interpreting contexts, connections, meanings. It is the necessary first step toward any kind of functional understanding. Lest you think I’m overstating this: we look for corollaries, echoes, parallels, examples that can help us to contextualize new moments, challenges, puzzles. “What is this like? Have we been here before?” is a default response in our species. History doesn’t repeat itself, but we overlay past experience to make sense of what is new. Historians climb into the past to craft stories, metaphors, allegories that help to better situate meaning in the present.
Historians are the direct descendants of Homer.
Which is to say that History is a way of seeing. Thinking historically is a critical (& critically under-appreciated) real-world problem-solving skill that requires honing. Every engineer, every doctor, every manager, every purported “leader” should be required to study History. The history of their field, sure, but also world history, colonial history, national history, regional history, social history, cultural history. Any/all of it. And they should accept that the best people to teach them this are historians. There is an expertise to studying the past that goes well beyond reading stuff.
At its best, History is the most interdisciplinary field in the contemporary academy. Inasmuch as it courts & trains depth, it demands an intellectual agility & versatility that few other disciplines can match.