"The study of history has value only to the extent that it is relevant to our daily lives."
To state that the study of history is only valuable if it is relevant to our daily lives is to ignore the value that history has beyond the day-to-day activities of human beings. It would seem to be a rather shallow statement that implies that humans only live just to survive rather than planning for the futures of their children and the environment.
First of all, to study history is to look at a road map of human behavior that has led us to where we are today in the world. For example, the lessons learned during all of the past wars can make for more effective wartime leadership by avoiding mistakes made by past commanders. From the ancient Chinese author Sun Tzu's book "The Art of War", today's military commanders and even business leaders gather valuable information that allows them to operate more efficiently and effectively. The study of this type of history has a value beyond the daily lives of people. It can lead to a military victory or the success of a business that directly affects what happens in the future, including the futures of those that are possibly not even born yet.
Another example is that by studying history, parents can help to improve the lives of their children in the future. Lessons learned by generations of their ancestors before them could help show them the way to properly raise a child. What worked for others can give guidance to the parents of today and tomorrow to make sure that children are prepared for their own futures beyond their daily lives.
Additionally, the study of medical advances made throughout history can be the foundation to build upon to make the medical advances of today and tomorrow to make people live longer and healthier lives. A researcher's daily life may not be enhanced by the study of the history of the AIDS pathogen, but it could certainly bring about a profound effect on the lives of others in the future if ways to control and cure the disease are found. The study of previous research over history has led to many amazing medical discoveries. To study history only to enrich one's daily life would here again seem to be incongruous with the truth.
A further example of the value of the study of history beyond its effect on daily life is the treatment of the environment and the earth as a whole. Looking back to the past to see the various effects of various human behaviors on the environment can show valuable lessons on what can happen if proper precautions are not taken. The nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have been studied to ensure that they do not happen again. Certainly the study of the effects of nuclear materials on humans and the environment provides value beyond that of the day-to-day life of people. The study of oil spills and their effects on the environment gives similar guidance on how to avoid or at least minimize the damage of an oil spill on the environment. The study of the disintegration of the ozone layer over the poles of the earth has given birth to new laws and regulations on certain chemicals that help to preserve this valuable part of our atmosphere. All of these examples of studying history provide value far beyond its impact on the daily lives of people.
To be certain, there are people out there that believe that only what affects them right here and right now is important. For them, the study of history might seem to be a waste of time if it does not affect their day-to-day lives. But for countless other individuals and groups, the study of history leads to improvements in activities that have an effect reaching far into the future, beyond their daily lives. The futures of mankind and the environment depend on these types of people who have enough foresight to study history to make for a better future for everyone.