I tend to write my posts nowadays under the misapprehension that everyone who reads them has looked at my previous posts on similar subjects and has a fair idea of broadly where I'm coming from. This is a bit silly, I realise, so please don't think I'm naively demanding 'back to basics' or any such nonsense.
I recognise the history/histories distinction, but deliberately passed over it. By HISTORY I mean an agglomeration of all written (and potential) histories. It is an amorphous blob, constantly growing and changing not merely as time passes, but also as our demands and beliefs change.
HOWEVER, most people in British society (frankly) and all but the oldest and best students have no conception of this. Indeed, it seems they don't even know any of the disputed material - considering perspectives/agenda etc is quite impossible. They don't, in short, know many of the things that happened in the past, regardless of how and by whom they have been reported.
As to textbooks, I think the companies obviously produce work for which there is a demand.
The problem is clearly at the heart of the syllabus, with those who decide what to do, when, and to what degree. If children can't engage with books, the blame lies with parents and schools (the providers of education), the response should be to find ways to make children engage with books, not abolish their usage. It's not the books per se that are valuable, but the unified pattern/narrative they present. That is what is lacking. If it can be generated by other means, then so be it.
The emphasis in history lessons today is on skills. Knowledge is not considered important; as information is supposedly always available nowadays, students should concentrated on how they receive it, what they do with it, and how they treat it. This is obviously all a (valuable) product of 60s (largely) Marxist-critical theory, but we've missed the point that critical skills are of secondary importance to the material they analyse. Also, - and this is the important part - the vast majority of our children will never reach a level of study where this becomes a major concern. The preponderance will leave school at 16 or 18 and be blessed if they have some understanding of where, when and how their society and its structures were created, how peoples and nations came to be where they are (in all senses of the phrase), and what things have been achieved, attempted and failed in the past and in what ways.
All nations have an interesting history.
Britain (and indeed Britons) today, as much as anywhere in the world, is a direct product of its history: colonialism/Empire/industrialisation/democratisation/philosophy etc. etc. I don't want to get overly Whiggish, but we need a tapestry woven of these threads; what we have at the moment is a pile of fabric which is - understandably - of little interest to students. A concomitant of this is that children have no historical heroes. In a quest for inclusivity and a recognition of minority perspective, we have bowdlerised our national story and dragged those thought great for generations under a 20th/21st interrogative spotlight; perhaps unsurprisingly, they have been found wanting in the caring/sharing demands of our contemporary educational politics. The fact that they shaped the world and made our nation great cannot counter-balance these apparent sins.
Finally, and as a complete addendum: dates are important. If you are given a series of important events/movements/eras (the big important ones: the crusades, the enlightenment, the renaissance, the industrial revolution, the major wars etc.) and you can't put them into a chronological order, you are uneducated and should be ashamed of yourself or your teachers.
Edit: all your comments about local-history/interest accepted: you should obviously play up the local-links, but I'm largely of the view that if one doesn't think the major historical characters are 'relevant', then it is probably more honestly the case that one actually doesn't know enough about them.