Consciously or not, all of us operate as historians. We make judgments and decisions based on our knowledge, however inadequate, of what has gone before. Furthermore, we make sense of our own position in the present by composing and telling stories about where we have been in the past.
The formal study of history—the critical examination of human accomplishments and failures—does likewise, and it greatly enhances our ability to judge and decide about both private matters and public issues. Although historical awareness does not offer immediate solutions to contemporary problems, it does lead to a better understanding of them. Studying what was remote in time and space provides important perspectives on politics, society and culture.