ABSTRACT. What can we learn from the somewhat arduous study of old stellar populations in nearby galaxies? Unless the nearby universe is subtly anomalous, it should contain a relatively normal selection of galaxies whose histories are representative of field galaxies in general throughout the Universe. We can therefore take advantage of our ability to resolve local galaxies into individual stars to directly, and accurately, measure star formation histories. The star formation histories are determined from numerical models, based on stellar evolution tracks, of colour-magnitude diagrams. The most accurate information on star formation rates extending back to the earliest epoches can be obtained from the structure of the main sequence. However, the oldest main sequence turnoffs are very faint, and it is often necessary to use the brighter, more evolved, populations to infer the star formation history at older times. A complete star formation history can be compared with the spectroscopic properties of galaxies seen over a large range of lookback times in redshift surveys. There is considerable evidence that the faint blue galaxies seen in large numbers in cosmological surveys are the progenitors of the late-type irregular galaxies seen in copious numbers in the Local Group, and beyond. We consider how the ``Madau-diagram'', the star formation history of the Universe, would look if the Local Group were to be considered representative of the Universe as a whole.
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