As an epigraph to History, Guilt, and Habit, Barfield quotes J. G. Droysen: "History is the 'Know Thyself' of humanity, the self-consciousness of mankind." It is not a "meaningless jumble of events" but rather a phase of the evolution of consciousness.1

"History," we are reminded later in the same book, "is later than evolution. It can only come into being after evolution had already had a long innings" (8). For there to be history, we are told in Speaker's Meaning, there must be human consciousness:2

The existence of anything we can properly call history does involve the presence, in or at the back of the relevant events, of some sort of conscious human intention, and therefore of some degree of individual "thought," or of thoughts entertained by an individual mind. Caesar had such individual thoughts when he crossed the Rubicon. It may be that history can take us back to events intentionally brought about by human beings very much less individualized than Caesar, very much less capable of what we now understand by thinking. But some degree of it you must have, before you come up to a period in the past which you can talk about at all under the rubric of history. Anything before that would come under the heading of nature. If we liked, we could substitute for the term "historical period" the term "period in which some events were determined by individual thoughts." (89)3

Faith in the meaning of history is one of the distinctive contributions of the West to the evolution of consciousness:
    The Western outlook emphasizes the importance of history and pays an ever increasing attention to it. It is interested in history, whereas the Eastern outlook, by and large, is not. There are those who maintain that the two attitudes go together, and that if (as these few also maintain) we are now called on to switch over, or switch back, from an occidental to an oriental view of the nature of consciousness, we should also abandon our concern with history and concentrate exclusively on the relation between the present moment and eternity--or between ordinary consciousness and a-consciousness.

    I am of a different opinion. I believe it lies in the destiny of the West, not to abandon but rather to intensify its concern with history, not to abandon its interest in the past of mankind, and of the world, but to deepen its understanding of both. (RM 26)

As Barfield notes in Unancestral Voice,describing Burgeon's growing historical knowledge, we do not appreciate strongly enough the uniqueness of our own historical awareness.

He would very much have liked to know all available history, but since it was the awakening [of human consciousness] he was concerned with, he must confine himself a good deal to the history of the civilization which had itself begun to study history; and, parochial or not, that was his own Western European civilization. Perhaps Toynbee himself had not seen just how sharply this particular civilization was distinguished from the other twenty by the fact that the other twenty had contained no Toynbees! (73)4

See in particular "The Semantic Approach to History and the Historical Approach to the Study of Meaning" (SM 13-39) and "History of Ideas: Evolution of Consciousness" (HGH 3-35).
1"As long as a man sees history as a meaningless jumble of events," Barfield writes in Unancestral Voice, "he will see his own life--which is a part of history--and the lives of those around him in the same light. The other name for a meaningless jumble of events is one-damn-thing-after-another" (94).
2Elsewhere Barfield notes that "By contrast with history, evolution is an unconscious process. Another, and perhaps a better, way of putting it would be to say that evolution is a natural process, history a human one; since nature, in its higher development, does of course include animal consciousness" (HGH 4).
3In Speaker's Meaning (20-21) Barfield quotes Collingwood's similar view that: "Historical events are distinguished from natural events (which are the raw material of science) by the fact that they have both an 'inside' and an 'outside.' The 'inside' of a historical event is 'that in it which can only be described in terms of thought.'"
4In the same book Barfield makes the following observation about our unique relationship to the past.
    It is Paul Ricoeur who reminds us that in the Old Testament there is no abstract word for repentance, only the symbol of 'returning.' And it is such a returning to the source from which we have cut ourselves off--or, in an older idiom, from which we have 'fallen'--that I believe is needed. Not of course a literal returning to the past by way of H.G. Wells' time-machine, but a re-turn by re-experiencing the past in the present. (HGH 61)