Why do we care about history? Can it teach us anything of relevance to the modern world? For most of us, how we imagine history is shaped by the modern mass media. Television and the heritage industry provide us with narratives that define who we are, or think we are. Many of these narratives deal with the history that has made our ‘nation’ what it is today. Occasionally, history is also treated as a warning: it tells us how to avoid becoming what we do not want to be. That is why ‘difficult histories’ are so prominent on our screens and in our museums: that of Nazi Germany, in particular, but histories of Empire, slavery and other forms of inequality continue to attract attention. Yet academic historians often argue that history cannot be distilled into a single lesson: the past is a different country and provides no simple ‘how to’ guide for the present.