You may want to agree with the common place that the knowledge of History is a priceless treasury of sleeping wisdom, waiting to be resurrected and understood - to improve our life - instead of slowly turning to dust, forgotten in tomes nobody reads or in confidential erudition nobody listens to.
Hegel, the philosopher of grand synthesis looks at history and concludes dryly:
We learn from History that people learn nothing from History .
Then, Santayana the disquiet humanist warns wisely that those who cannot remember the past are destined to relive it .
To this outrageous and generally overlooked truth, an anonymous saying appends: Wise people learn from other people’s errors [2a]; intelligent people learn from their own; fools never learn.
Are we all such hopeless fools? Is humanity so stupid? Can’t we learn from the experience of the past generations? Why?*
We do not learn from History because we are not educated from History; our schooling is abstract, bygone and irrelevant, full of artificial century yardsticks and pompous dates of battles and opportunistic monumental events with no connection with our life, understanding and concerns. The human face is missing to feel that we could have been them... so that we would try to do better this time.
Were we to draw wisdom from the past of humanity, we would be all more seasoned than Methuselah. Therefore I am puzzled by the apparent elimination from the history books of that wise narration of concrete human experience which constitutes practical wisdom. As for the wide picture allowing the common individual to understand how relative are in fact some of the things taken today for granted and eternal, that scope is equally absent.
Besides the events on record, where is the way people lived the events, the way they understood them?
What did actual people do to cope with those events, so typical and so many times repeated?
The facts of life learned, the ways of the world, the narrations of why and how errors and successes came to be, do not get to us. The savoir-faire, the life-saving ideas and skills of the key situations and deeds - all those precious and meaningful patterns and insights that made lives and cost lives in other times do not seem worth to recall. No branch of science owns them.
Wisdom extracted from the past is not considered a part of the historical record. In fact, who cares to define "wisdom", what proved wise in the past for individuals, for nations or at least for whatever the authors believe to be good life and "Progress"?
The way bygone individuals carved their path into their times seems of no concern for the publicly known writers of history. We did not learn what I would call life histories in our school years. Biographical time seems of no interest for the scholars of historical time; as if they were amici humani generi (friends of humanity "in general") but indifferent to the living human individuals. Should we count on the television series and the big-budget films to become wiser? Is this an entertainment-task to be relegated to popular literature?
I believe that opposed to this attitude we could draw hints of former experience meaningful for our life now, by means of dramatic, concrete accounts, faithful to the spirit of what actually happened but presented in compelling forms of common sense. To understand and to follow, we need to see and to hear and feel; moreover we need to relate and to understand. Is being vivid and formative incompatible with serious history? Must history be a dried-out grave?
The words of Herodotus, who invented history some two thousands five hundred years ago, lost their echo as it seems:
“WHAT Herodotus the Halicarnassian has learnt by inquiry is here set forth: in order that so the memory of the past may not be blotted out from among men by time, and that great and marvellous deeds done by Greeks and foreigners and especially the reason why they warred against each other may not lack renown.”
The Father of history did not seem to ambition creating a new domain of academic excellence. As it appears, he conceived history as a narrative and a morality tale for purposes of judgement and example.
Because of Herodotus’ flirting with myth, marvel and imprecision in his pursuit of the greater good, righteous Plutarch will cry out that the king is naked and the data false: “Herodotus is a father of lies!” No more no less, like Satan. So, for millennia, everybody will nod approvingly, forgetting that unscientific Herodotus is still the one who introduced the very word History, and its aim, the occupation of writing down the memories of the past for future generations to learn.
This practical purpose was simple and revolutionary: in today's wording, to make us different from all the other animals, by giving us a wider past to own, a Lamarckian memory of the species; to let us learn – unlike animals – from the generations no more present, from former people’s mistakes and achievements. The task of the histories was clearly to avoid oblivion and to recount memories in such a way as to educate the living.
There are of course wonderful pragmatic books drawing risky but valuable conclusions from the past for the living person of today, I just don’t know much about them except say, some big tomes reserved to the knowing amateurs: Thucydides's Peloponnesian War, Machiavelli's historical incursions, Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Durant’s Story of Civilisation, Toynbee’s Study of History or Spengler’s Decline of the West [4a]. Sombre stuff too. In fact, I learned more about past wisdom from Thomas Mann’s Joseph and his Brothers than from the history books. I can hardly imagine those tomes as an accessible public source of present-day wisdom for the common people or even for their elected governments.
Maybe the historians, tired of repetition, do not believe any more that their role is to help the new generations avoid the notorious, disastrous, mistakes done and paid many times before, nor to profit from the always relative understanding of the past; maybe they believe that it is more important to contemplate the tiny verified facts left with a dispassionate eye. Unaltered past truth is more important than influencing the future. Who would deny the virtue of a fact-based history?
Maybe the historians do not believe at all that it were their vocation to touch and improve the future, to talk to individual people, to spare individuals and nations struggling again from zero with things faced many times before by their ancestors. Are they satisfied to inquire, discern and explain causes and conditions of "necessary evolution" and leave the task of shaping the future to the inexorable progress of science and technology or even to the utopias of ideologists?
Maybe the historians do understand deep human truth but do not know any more how to speak with the teachers conveying their work to us or, if the teachers do not want to listen, the historians do not find the subjects and the rhetoric to move common people.
Something clips the wings of the knowing ones.
Maybe that which clips the wings of our great historians is, paradoxically, the idea of progress . If progress is a necessary, upwards, one-way, if the future is forever new and what was will never come again, then it is not worth learning from the past. Is the faith in progress more secure than other unquestioned beliefs?
Moreover, if humanity does not move through the dreams and the deeds of people, but through necessary processes there is no value for us to learn from personal histories recounted. Such history would be just wild goose chase, a fool’s errand or, as a colourful Romanian proverb puts it, "amassing dead-horse-shoes." Accordingly, they let the sleeping wisdom of History sleep in peace.
It may also be that historians became shy to teach the old uncertain stories, si non e vero e ben trovato,** because of their urge to be honourable scientists, reviewed and respected by their peers. They seek only certain and high-level theory-tested facts of “historic” significance. They can only represent true universal beliefs, justified by fact, based on necessary causes in objective environments, induced and deduced through impeccable methods and logical processes. Perhaps these learned people, cannot care for the practical, old, people-level recipes remembered from history, since that folkish truth is not scientific, not pure enough, not precise enough. Obviously, you cannot reproduce the narratives of history in a laboratory to test them. Or so I hope.
The serious historians must have found in their inner chambers that the traces of written history left to us are thin, imprecise, biased, mostly fable, cosmetic, self-serving apology by leaders who dreamt their image into posterity. Maybe they found that the most interesting memories transmitted to us from the past offer mainly deceptive and self-deceptive lies, fantasies, personal detail and wishful interpretation, no laws; What's the use of stories that are not even true? 
Method detected even deadlier sins of past history writing; imagine the horror of the rational thinker when he considers the value of testimony - the narratives of other people [6a]. It is most probably scientifically correct to forget that even today, all people - you and me, including the most rigorous scientists - obtain and keep obtaining the overwhelming majority of their "justified beliefs" about the world by trust in the authority and reliability of words, of testimony and explanations from parents, teachers and preachers, of books, completed and grounded with images and sound transmitted by media known for their impartiality; only a minuscule part of what we know for certain comes from our senses, empiric checking and from work of our personal, isolated, autonomous and critical reasoning. So that historians had to discard the testimonies of those eye and ear and deeds witnesses present when important events happened. This is a good explanation for not presenting account of individuals living events.
Maybe, on the contrary to scientific impartiality, there is too much pressure on the historian to be opportunistic, politically correct, which actual history is not. Perhaps the convenient present meaning of the past changes too often. Indeed, I remember my late Mother, a researcher in history saying years ago under a totalitarian regime; “The past is most difficult to foresee nowadays, as the line of the Party changes all the time.”
Or, on the contrary, the historians fell pray to the theories of "historicism" that fascinating (and discouraging) belief that everything is helplessly relative, contextual, ideological, without stable substance, so that everything goes and nothing counts?
Maybe, discouraged, the historians decided that there is no shape to find in the history of past humanity, no regularity, nothing reoccurring so that we may learn from it? That to quote the apostle of the mass-production future H. Ford history is bunk? [6b]
History developed so much the last century; the archaeologist keep digging into ever supplementary millions of years of our pedigree, the researchers found and checked flurries of documents, concepts and methods are more and more precise. Science keeps drilling deeper and deeper into the bottomless well of the past. What a shame that these bright learned minds give us back so little! Forgive me the time-worn jest, perhaps they specialize so much that each learns more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing or nothing about everything .
For the rest of us end-users of history the question lingers: why do so many excellent historians do so little to educate us wiser? Why is it that schoolboy Montaigne found more wisdom in Herodotus and Erasmus’s gossipy Apophthegms [7a] than we could learn today from the huge, sound treatises (not to speak about the boring manuals and school-lessons)?
I confess that for me, the only public benefit of history – and a vital benefit too - is Herodotus’ initial intention, to teach something meaningful from past in order for us to do better next time we meet something similar.
I still have a dream that can learn wisdom from history, elusive as it is; I am not shocked by memories being most often a mixture of interpreted reality and of fable. So are some of the great works of literature and of art, fabricated to be full of human and historic truth and to generate civilisation. So are the great social theories we follow. What I seek in the history text, for myself and for the ones I want to educate with wisdom, is some coherent and understandable form and regularity, meaningful at my own level; gestalt, metaphor, comparison, striking narratives from which we can learn to live better, accounts of essence, typical of real life that was. I imagine a lay concept of “historic truth” akin to literary truth - a narration that caries loyal, candid, reliable historic meaning - the deep human truth that the honest historian understood personally - at the best of his ability - from the many lacunar and uncertain witnessing and documents studied.
We need mental treasuries that would furnish minds well made, able to judge well and exclaim “But this happened before!” instead of doing the same mistakes again as if newborn in a squirrel-cage of ever turning Samsara. People who do learn from the past may be able to cause progress - or at least defend it from foundering - instead of just suffering "change". They may do more to avoid the decline of our "culminant" western civilisation of the day arrogant enough to believe that it saw the End of History, with nothing really new left to surprise us. This ridiculous attitude requires indeed not having learned a thing from History.
As a plain reader I beg you:
If Humanity saw all that before, let Humanity tell me what it means for me! For us! ... I am avid to know how past life was lived, and its vital advice for people today and tomorrow. Help me judge with my own head!
Maybe the best historians of today would care to create – the same way some courageous scholars write of private  and intimate  life across the centuries – a basic level of “life experience” historiography. They would share with us, even without Method, what they learned personally about human nature and the human condition, about critical life events and situations, to explain us what they understood from their research that what we should know to live better. We would trust their witnessing, on their word.
Can’t you historians do for people at least as much as Herodotus?
* To put some water in my wine, I must concede that there may be many reasons for which we - and our governments - don't learn wisdom from history; like the pressure to live here and now and our mind’s inability to count with things out of sight, too far away or too long ago. Indeed, we hardly learn from our parents; why would we listen to people dead ages before? I only consider here one important cause, the work of the historians, as something could be done about it.
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, The Philosophy of History, Batoche Books, Kitchener, Ontario, 2001, p.19 : "Rulers, Statesmen, Nations, are wont to be emphatically commended to the teaching which experience offers in history. But what experience and history teach is this — that peoples and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it."
 George Santayana The Life of Reason, NEW YORK, CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS, 1917, p. 284:”Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
[2a] This part is attributed to statesman Otto von Bismarck.
 Herodotus, Book I, Loeb Classical Library 1920 p. 3
 Plutarch, On the Malignity of Herodotus, Moralia XI (Loeb Classical Library 426).
[4a] Pardon my ignorance. I will keep completing this superficial list.
 Becker Carl L., Progress and Power: Three Lectures Delivered at Stanford University, on the Raymond Fred West Memorial Foundation, April 1935. Contributors: Carl L. Becker - author. Publisher: Stanford University Press. Place of Publication: Stanford, CA. Publication Year: 1936.
** It may not be true, but it is well conceived
 Rushdie, Salman, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Penguin, 1990
[6a] Kennedy, Rick, A History of Reasonableness; Testimony and Authority in the Art of Thinking, University of Rochester Press, Rochester, 2004 pp 227-255
[6b] See Corfield, Penelope J., Time and the shape of history, Yale University Press, New Haven.., 2007 - a very interesting book - for the contrary view.
 I wonder who said this: A physicist learns more and more about less and less, until he knows everything about nothing; whereas a philosopher learns less and less about more and more, until he knows nothing about everything. The Routledge Dictionary of Quotation (Robert Andrews) quotes Nicholas Murray Buttler 1862-1948 to have said at the Columbia University that “ An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less”
[7a] Erasmus The Apopthegmes of Erasmus, Printed by Robert Roberts, Boston Lincolnshire, 1877
 Ariès, P., Duby, G., Veyne, P., Goldhammer, A., History of Private Life, Vol. I-V, Belknap Press, 1992-1998
 Zeldin Theodore, An Intimate History of Humanity, Vintage, 1995