It sort of depends on what you mean by history. Individually, we can learn from our experiences. Some take longer to 'get it' than others and make the same mistakes over and over. Once we get it, we can choose to move in one direction or another. Collectively, it's not as easy, too many people.
Just to shed some light on this. When I posted this I was thinking about events, a 'deja vu' kind of event, in life that tends to repeat from one generation to another. It is very common, almost like an adage to hear people say, "history always repeats itself".
I used to attend a Spiritualist church, where the mediums would tell me that I had the spirit of a writer with me called William. This meant nothing to me. One day, I was asked by my dad to research the online genealogy sites to look for his uncle William Sharp. Doing this, I discovered a writer called William Sharp. The coincidences include, not only that my surname is Sharp, but that looking at the photo of William Sharp, who died in 1905 was almost like looking into a mirror. I am the spitting image of him.
This lead to me to discover that William Sharp wrote some fairy tales, as do I, and it was when reading one of his, that I realised the plot was very similar to one of my own tales. I further discovered so many similarities between the life on William Sharp and myself, that I was left with a very spooky feeling.
The mediums kept telling me that this writer called William wrote automatically through me. William Sharp believed that he wrote his fairy tales by automatic writing, guided by a spirit called Fiona MacLeod. Is this the sort of experience you mean?
Very common in Africa to have a child be a spitting image of a great grand parent (sometime deceased). So I can relate to your experience. It thus have this spooky feeling to it though when you find yourself doing the same things, having the same interest, or following the same path as the deceased individual.
Also looking at the lives of those around us, those who never learn from their mistakes enough to teach or rear their children to deviate from the same things they did that got them in jail, or caused them to have a child when they themselves are still children or, just as couturepopcafe pointed out, always tends to carry on that legacy from generations to generations.