Cicero suggested that "to be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it be woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?"
History is both a discipline and a story, both an interpretation and a series of events. It is not simply chronology - one damn thing leading to another - as the ideas we have, and the kind of possibilities they allow, lead people to lean one way or another against the course of events. "The study of the past is always inspired by the need for light in the present" (Pierre Rosanvallon).
"Doing justice to the reality of history is not a matter of noting the way in which the past provides a background to the present; it is a matter of treating what people do in the present as a struggle to create a future out of the past, of seeing that the past is not just the womb of the present but the only raw material out of which the present can be constructed." (Philip Abrams).