Why read history?
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Marx may have diagnosed the problem accurately. His solution sucked, though I'm not seeing much better from unbridled capitalism.
I agree with >7 deVaca: that history gives us a better understanding of the humanities, but I think it's backwards. Reading literature, viewing art, listening to music helps us understand the human race better. History is much more than facts, it's understanding other cultures and societies and the factors that drove them. I guess I like history because it's about people on the grand scale.
But to back you up, deVaca, absolutely understanding history puts literature in the right context. I can't say how many times (but a lot) I've read fiction and been curious to read the history of the period. Ruth Downie made me more curious about Rome. Bernard Cornwell writing on Anglo-Saxon England and Agincourt made me dig into medieval history.