Is there a Halachic problem to read and or learn the topic of History on Shabbos for enjoyment purposes? and why?
One is not allowed to read "Shtarei Hedyotos" (business writings) because:
- One isn't allowed to about speak weekday things.
- Even if one doesn't say the contents aloud, one may come to erase the contents.
There is also a decree not to read any writings (even meal invitations, etc.) because one may come to read "Shatrei Hedyotos".
The Beis Yosef adds that one is prohibited from reading secular parables (fiction) or history on Shabbos (as well as on a weekday because of Moshav Leitzim and Bittul Torah).
However, the Rama says one can read History on Shabbos if it's written in Hebrew. The Aruch Hashulchan explains that the decree against Shtarei Hedyotos doesn't apply to Hebrew books because (in his day) classical Shtarei Hedyotos weren't written in Hebrew.
The Shulchan Harav writes though that one is forbidden from reading history books on Shabbos even if written in Hebrew.
However, the Eliya Rabba (quoted by both Aruch Hashulchan and Shulchan Aruch Harav) says that Yossipun (Josephus) is allowed to be read on Shabbos because it contains "Mussar and Yiras Shamayin".
Shulhan Aruch 307:16 (I'm bringing the words of the Yalkut Yosef 307:29)
> אין ללמוד בשבת אלא בדברי תורה, שלא ניתנו שבתות וימים טובים לישראל אלא לעסוק בתורה
Then Yalkut Yosef 307:27
מליצות ומשלים של דברי חולין והבל, או ספר שיש בו דברי חשק [רומן] ומלחמות, אסור לקרות בהם בשבת. ואף בחול אסור לקוראם, ועובר משום אל תפנו אל האלילים, לא תפנו אל מדעתכם.
In the first quote it is clear to him that you may not learn anything other than Torah. In the second quote he says "or wars" which is most of history. So either way you look at it, it would be asur.
Another problem when reading older sources on this is "history", a thousand years ago, was made up by kings about how glorious they were (to which the Rambam writes, who cares?!; it wasn't the more-scientific, comprehensive study that it is today, which is of far more valuable.
I believe it is permitted, based on Deuteronomy 32:7, which says to Remember the Days of Yore. From here, it seems like not only would it be permitted to reflect on history, but a mitzvah to do so.
See here for an in depth analysis by R. Eitam Henkin (the son of R. Yehudah Henkin) of the various reasons why people are generally not careful about the issur of reading 'shtarei hedyotos' nowadays.