The chief benefit of the study of history is to break down the illusion that people in one period of time are significantly different from people who lived at any other time in history.
Generally speaking, the significance of study of history can hardly be concluded in a few words. Thus, seeing from this angle mentioned above, although it may be a little naive and narrow to just limit the primary functions of history study merely within 'break down the illusion', I acknowledge fundamentally that during the process of history study, people will realize that they actually share much in common with their ancestors gradually, in spite of various superficial differences. Intricate as the topic is, following explanations are necessary.
Before acknowledging that history study can indeed break down such an illusion, it is human nature for anyone to first wonder that why we may consider that people living in one period of time are different from those who lived in another. We may feel normal to find Count Thibault of Malfete was totally astonished and confused by the enormous gap between his descendant and himself after he was suddenly conveyed from his own time to hundreds of years later, because that,we know the aristocrat has not experienced or even witnessed the long span of time he just passed within one second, during which numerous changes actually have taken place; similarly, if a person lacks basic knowledge or awareness of the evolution of history between other people and himself, he will undoubtedly feel strange of those who beyond his own time when confronting with them on TV programs, magazines or other mediums. Therefore, the answer to the question at the beginning of the paragraph seems clear, that is, the illusion is caused by the lack of the adequate edification of history.
However, after the first problem has been solved, another one rises. If we admit the illusion as a product of the ignorance of history, we must also admit that the history is changing at the same time. Then, ironically, will the 'illusion' still be an illusion? Or it just turns out to be the truth?
To answer this question it is inevitable to scrutinize the essential points of history. There is no denying that, history never appears as a stasis, but the changing process is accumulative and slow rather than reconstructive and radical. Therefore, although history cannot repeat thoroughly today,the overall trend stays the same during the human history. More or less, modern theories, technologies or conceptions cannot avoid being influenced by their predecessors, and, consequently, they revise the dross, inherit merits, establish themselves finally. Accordingly, it is not exaggerate to suggest that every new form of event related with human beings is similar with its foregoing counterpart; or at least, the difference is not as significant as many people think.
Furthermore, besides the external forms of changes mentioned above, the consistency of human history relies much more on the inner spirits of human race in fact. Sword, rifle, atom bomb, from the first to the latest, the shape differs apparently, and the power multiplies dramatically, due to the development of technology. But human beings use them only for one purpose--- that is to war;moreover, although the weapons used in the war are different, the origin of the war also remains the same, that is greed and lust, both of which belong to the Seven. On the contrary, Socrates,Plato, Aristotle, although their doctrines are incompatible, the spirit of pursuing the truth has passed down from one to another. Aside from those two particular examples, the more careful you delve into the history, the deeper you will be convinced that some inner characters of human beings are permanent, either good or evil. But, be noticed, only through in-depth study of history can you get the conclusion mentioned above, otherwise you will probably be puzzled by various covers on the inherent similarities of human beings.
Insofar, the foregoing discussions all support the assertion of the author; admittedly the meaning of studying history is much wider than contrasting people in different times. From the standpoints of individuals, it can provide entertainments, meet the curiosities and so forth; seeing from a higher position, it can raise the ethos of a nation, guide the decisions of the leaders, etc. However,it is unreasonable to demand one assertion is perfect in every side, and we just need to absorb the merits of this assertion, that is, thorough studying history, we may know more about our ancestors,and thus, know more about ourselves.