Jikan wrote: It seems to me that the word "history" is another word for "samsara."
Before there was history, there was prehistory, and there was samsara.
samsara predates history.
Jikan wrote: what does Buddha Dharma have to say about history? Is this even a worthwhile line of inquiry?
What the dharma teaches is that since beginningless time, beings have wandered in samsara.
"beginningless" can have a number of meanings,
depending on whether or not you are applying the context of linear time.
I think what you are trying to get at may have some merit for discussion,
otherwise you wouldn't bring it up.
But I can't tell exactly what it is you are trying to get at.
"History" isn't a thing
It is a vague notion of some concept of what we regard as "the past".
it isn't something that unfolds, like unrolling a carpet.
Its a general accumulation of previous events.
So, it would be helpful if you detailed a little more what you mean by "history".
If you are talking about the history of what propels beings into a state of samsara
then there are all sorts of things that can be considered.
A primitive "cave man" fashions a bowl out of mud, for example,
goes to sleep, wakes up the next day, sees what he created the day before and says "Me make that!"
(We know from movies and television that cave men only spoke in the present tense, no doubt because there wasn't sufficient past-tense to affect spoken language!
So, right there you can imagine the beginnings of some idea of self,
because one now possesses tangible proof (a mud bowl) that one has previously been.
Buddhist theory (12 links of dependent origination, skhandas, etc.) actually refines the origins of the self/other dichotomy to a much more basic level.
To this day, people create or purchase those things which provide some tangible evidence of "who they are" not just at that very second, but over some notion of linear time. But mostly, I think what we do is inherit identity as a kind of cultural baggage, and this becomes history. So, we have the history of the Romans, or the history of the Chinese, or the history of the automobile, or the history of Buddhism or whatever.
We conceptualize these categories based on a random selection of characteristics that differentiate one group from another, but in fact, these groupings are also illusory concepts. So, for example, you can read about the history of the Tibetan people, but all you are really reading about is the history of a limited number of shared characteristics of some humans
, because in fact, every Tibetan person is different.
"History" assumes a lot which, in Buddhist analysis of things, is rather vague and ambiguous.
This doesn't even begin to bring into account that there are not really any divisions of seconds, years or centuries. It's not as though a clock started ticking at the moment of the big bang. This is all something we've just made up. Days and nights don't actually exist. It's merely the effect of a shadow on this spinning ball we're all on. There is no time except at this very moment, and that moment itself has no duration whatsoever.
Really, all of time is just the continuous, infinite unfolding of right now