I currently reading A History of Economic Theory and Method by Ekelund and Hebert. On chapter one, they discussed about payoff to studying the history of economic thought:
The answer, to no one’s surprise, is: “It depends.” Merely looking backward for nostalgia’s sake is of no particular benefit. However, studying the past for lessons that might be learned, or insights gained can be of enormous benefit. Humans can judge where they are only in terms of where they have been, and since history is the study of humanity, we ignore history at the risk of not understanding ourselves […] One of the things we can hope to gain from a study of the past is better understanding of the creative process. All the great intellectual pioneers held a skeptical, almost iconolastic, attitude toward traditional ideas, and maintained an open, almost naive, credulity toward new concepts. Out of this combination came the crucial capacity to see a familiar situation or problem in a new light. The creative process is always a wrenching away of a concept from its traditional context or meaning.