What is the point of history?

A good friend of mine quoted someone who neither of us could remember, maybe you know and could tell me in the comments section, that history is “just one bloody thing after another” and they might well be right. At university, towards the end of my study, I came to the conclusion that a career in history wasn’t for me. And that was one of my many mistakes. In this short blog post I want to argue that the study of history is important not least for the inspiration it can provide.

Exhibit one is my cat called Cleopatra. Cleo was a rescue cat from the Cats Protection League who quite frankly told us she was lovely and dumped then ran for the door. She wasn’t and spent at least five years hating me personally. She has now gotten over this and is one of my best friends. She is currently sitting on my neck. The value of history in this case is that it enabled us to give her a name that really, really suited her superior, jumped up personality. I think also it was a way for us to communicate to other people what she was like because Cleopatra is a well known historical figure. Her attributes can easily be implied onto a little cat and we all know about her personality without having to explain.

Exhibit two is Britains most successful manufacturer which is Games Workshop. Games Workshop makes plastic toy soldiers and sells them world wide. They are a very successful business. Let us be honest anyone can make toy soldiers, but not on the scale of Games Workshop. The difference is what hobbyists call ‘fluff’ and what GW writers like to call Intellectual Property. Its successful, engaging and gripping narratives are inspired and drawn from history. The Ultramarines are very Roman, the Imperial Guard reference conflicts from the Zulu Wars through the First World War to Vietnam.

I am going to conclude here by summing up. History gives a shared knowledge with references that can be drawn upon to add depth to personal understanding between those who share that knowledge. And from that knowledge engaging and powerful narratives can be created that can help create powerful, engaging and profitable brands.

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