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Quotations about History

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A million thanks to Steve for sharing some of his fantastic collection with me!

History is a cyclic poem written by Time upon the memories of man. ~Percy Bysshe Shelley

If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. ~Pearl Buck

History is philosophy teaching by examples. ~Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War

People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them. ~James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

The great eventful Present hides the Past; but through the din
Of its loud life hints and echoes from the life behind steal in.
~John Greenleaf Whittier

Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters. ~African Proverb

The memories of men are too frail a thread to hang history from. ~John Still, The Jungle Tide

[T]here certainly is no useful or entertaining history but the history of the day. All ancient histories, as one of our wits has observed, are only fables that men have agreed to admit as true; and with regard to modern history, it is a chaos out of which it is impossible to make anything... ~François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694–1778), "Jeannot et Colin," 1764, translated from French by William Walton, 1900  [The wit has been identified as Bernard Le Bovier, sieur de Fontenelle. Et merci, Monsieur R.J.J., pour l'observation de la grammaire. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Professor Johnston often said that if you didn't know history, you didn't know anything. You were a leaf that didn't know it was part of a tree. ~Michael Crichton, Timeline

We used to root for the Indians against the cavalry, because we didn't think it was fair in the history books that when the cavalry won it was a great victory, and when the Indians won it was a massacre. ~Dick Gregory

History is herstory, too. ~Author Unknown

A history in which every particular incident may be true may on the whole be false. ~Thomas Babington Macaulay

More and more, I tend to read history. I often find it more up to date than the daily newspapers. ~Joe Murray, "History updates current events," Spartanburg Herald-Journal, May 10th 1992

History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. ~Winston Churchill

In that delightful land embosomed in the Mediterranean sea, there once stood in its pride and strength one of the most splendid cities of the world.... Since then, many centuries have rolled away and are lost in oblivion.— They have gone, and O how many millions of men have gone with them to the shoreless ocean of eternity!... [T]his city.... [h]er palaces have crumbled, and the owl builds her nest within the mouldering chambers of her kings. The poet's lyre is broken. The voice of eloquence is forever hushed. The wine-cup is in the dust. The voice of their merriment has long since ceased. The good, the brave, the noble, the wealthy and the poor, are all forgotten. Spirit of change! these mighty revolutions are thine. Thou art the eldest-born of time; thy lessons are precious to the soul, and ever should they be treasured in the memory. ~Charles Lanman, "Musings," 1840

History is a mighty dramos, enacted upon the theatre of times, with suns for lamps and eternity for a background. ~Thomas Carlyle

History is a novel for which the people is the author. ~Alfred de Vigny, Réflexions sur la Vérité dans l'Art

History is a kind of introduction to more interesting people than we can possibly meet in our restricted lives; let us not neglect the opportunity. ~Dexter Perkins

History was a trash bag of random coincidences torn open in a wind. Surely, Watt with his steam engine, Faraday with his electric motor, and Edison with his incandescent light bulb did not have it as their goal to contribute to a fuel shortage some day that would place their countries at the mercy of Arab oil. ~Joseph Heller, Good as Gold

Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all: the conscientious historian will correct these defects. ~Herodotus, The History of Herodotus

History: gossip well told. ~Elbert Hubbard, The Roycroft Dictionary

History is a symphony of echoes heard and unheard. It is a poem with events as verses. ~Charles Angoff

If one could make alive again for other people some cobwebbed skein of old dead intrigues and breathe breath and character into dead names and stiff portraits. That is history to me! ~George Macaulay Trevelyan

The history of the world is the record of a man in quest of his daily bread and butter. ~Hendrik Wilhelm van Loon, The Story of Mankind

Historians are gossips who tease the dead. ~Voltaire, Scribbling Books

History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up. ~Voltaire

We are the prisoners of history. Or are we? ~Robert Penn Warren, Segregation

History never looks like history when you are living through it. ~John W. Gardner

Legend: A lie that has attained the dignity of age. ~H.L. Mencken

God cannot alter the past, though historians can. ~Samuel Butler, "Prose Observations"

History is the sum total of the things that could have been avoided. ~Konrad Adenauer

That man was a philosopher, who said that the history of the world was a history of ruin. It is so.— Wherever we turn our eyes, we cannot fail to behold some magnificent ruin. Our daily footsteps are imprinted in the dust of things which were once the admiration of men. They are the hieroglyphics of time. Silent and holy are all their teachings. Sometimes they remind us of beauty and peace, and sometimes of terror, tumult and woe. They have nothing to do with the future and present, but the past is their all; and yet how wise, how important their counsels! ~Charles Lanman, "Musings," 1840

Then, Sir, you would reduce all history to no better than an almanack, a mere chronological series of remarkable events. ~James Boswell, 1775

The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice. ~Mark Twain, Following the Equator

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. ~Plato, Ion

History is a vast early warning system. ~Norman Cousins

Historian: an unsuccessful novelist. ~H.L. Mencken

Oh, God. The Sixties are coming back. Well I've got a 12-gauge double-barreled duck gun chambered for three-inch Magnum shells. And - speaking strictly for this retired hippie and former pinko beatnik - if the Sixties head my way, they won't get past the porch steps. They will be history. Which, for chrissakes, is what they're supposed to be. ~P.J. O'Rourke

Historian: A broad-gauge gossip. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

History is a great dust heap. ~Thomas Carlyle, Obiter Dicta

Most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice. ~Will and Ariel Durant, Our Oriental Heritage

A lot of history is just dirty politics cleaned up for the consumption of children and other innocents. ~Richard Reeves

History is past politics, and politics present history. ~John Robert Seeley, The Growth of British Policy

Bound as our lives are to the tyranny of time, it is through what we know of history that we are delivered from our bonds and escape - into time. ~A.L. Rowse, The Use of History

The lovers of romance can go elsewhere for satisfaction but where can the lovers of truth turn if not to history? ~Katharine Anthony

Man is a history-making creature who can neither repeat his past nor leave it behind. ~W.H. Auden, The Dyer's Hand

Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him. ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up. ~Author Unknown

History is full of the dead weight of things which have escaped the control of the mind, yet drive man on with a blind force. ~Frederick Maurice Powicke, History, Freedom & Religion

Political history is far too criminal and pathological to be a fit subject of study for the young. Children should acquire their heroes and villains from fiction. ~W.H. Auden, A Certain World

More history's made by secret handshakes than by battles, bills, and proclamations. ~John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor

If an historian were to relate truthfully all the crimes, weaknesses and disorders of mankind, his readers would take his work for satire rather than for history. ~Pierre Bayle, Historical and Critical Dictionary

Too many historical writers are the votaries of cults, which, by definition are dedicated to whitewashing warts and hanging halos. ~Thomas A. Bailey

A historian is often only a journalist facing backwards. ~Karl Kraus, translated from German by Harry Zohn

If you think you have it tough, read history books. ~Bill Maher

Histories are a kind of distilled newspapers. ~Thomas Carlyle, Heroes and Hero Worship

People think too historically. They are always living half in a cemetery. ~Aristide Briand

Happy the people whose annals are blank in history-books. ~Thomas Carlyle, Life of Frederick the Great

Sin writes histories, goodness is silent. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Table - Talk

[History is] the story of the magnificent rear-guard action fought during several thousand years by dogma against curiosity. ~Robert S. Lynd

History begins in novel and ends in essay. ~Thomas Babington Macaulay

[W]hen a historian enters into metaphysics he has gone to a far country from whose bourne he will never return a historian. ~Shailer Mathews, The Spiritual Interpretation of History

It is part of my creed that the only poetry is history, could we tell it right. ~Thomas Carlyle

[T]he Present is the living sum-total of the whole Past. ~Thomas Carlyle, Characteristics

History: An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Every age has a keyhole to which its eye is pasted. ~Mary McCarthy, On the Contrary

What is the fire in our belly but the eternal flame of a thousand ancestors. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com

As soon as histories are properly told there is no more need of romances. ~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

History is merely gossip. ~Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan

Some write a narrative of wars and feats,
Of heroes little known, and call the rant
A history.
~William Cowper, The Task, The Garden

The writing of histories - as Goethe once noted - is one way of getting rid of the weight of the past.... The writing of history liberates us from history. ~Benedetto Croce, History as the Story of Liberty

Historians are like deaf people who go on answering questions that no one has asked them. ~Leo Tolstoy

The challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present. ~David Thelen

If you go back through 2000 years, I guess luck, Marx, and God have made history, the three of them together. ~Theodore White

Princes should have more to fear from historians than have ugly women from great painters. ~Antonio Pérez, Aforismos

Historical investigation has for its aim to fix the order and character of events throughout past time and in all places. The task is frankly superhuman. ~George Santayana, The Life of Reason

Man watches his history on the screen with apathy and an occasional passing flicker of horror or indignation. ~Conor Cruise O'Brien

The South creates the civilizations, the North conquers them, ruins them, borrows from them, spreads them: this is one summary of history. ~Will and Ariel Durant, Lessons of History

History is the transformation of tumultuous conquerors into silent footnotes. ~Paul Eldridge, Maxims for a Modern Man

The Past lies upon the Present like a giant's dead body. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of Seven Gables

[T]ruly great history is not subtle. It smacks you in the face. You know it at the time you're watching it — you're seeing something that's for the ages. ~Tom Verducci  [said at the finish of the 2014 World Series, about Madison Bumgarner's pitching, 2014 October 29th —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Historians of literature like to regard a century as a series of ten faces, each grimacing in a different way. ~Richard Ellman

History is never antiquated, because humanity is always fundamentally the same. ~Walter Rauschenbusch

History maketh a young man to be old, without either wrinkles or gray hairs; privileging him with the experience of age, without either the infirmities or inconveniences thereof. ~Thomas Fuller

I see History as a relay race in which one of us, before dropping in his tracks, must carry one stage further the challenge of being a man. ~Romain Gary

Perhaps history is a thing that would stop happening if God held His breath, or could be imagined as turning away to think of something else. ~Herbert Butterfield, Christianity and History

Crimes of which a people is ashamed constitute its real history. The same is true of man. ~Jean Genet

When a history book contains no lies it is always tedious. ~Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard

Men have need of history because, without it, the past threatens to overwhelm them. ~Guy Fregault, La guerre de la conquête

Isn't it amazing the way the future succeeds in creating an appropriate past? ~John Leonard

History is never above the melee. It is not allowed to be neutral, but forced to enlist in every army. ~Allan Nevins, The Gateway to History

History, like a vast river, propels logs, vegetation, rafts, and debris; it is full of live and dead things, some destined for resurrection; it mingles many waters and holds in solution invisible substances stolen from distant soils. ~Jacques Barzun, Clio and the Doctors

History is the action and reaction of these two, nature and thought - two boys pushing each other on the curbstone of the pavement. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life: Fate

All that the historians give us are little oases in the desert of time, and we linger fondly in these, forgetting the vast tracks between one and another that were trodden by the weary generations of men. ~John Alfred Spender, The Comments of Bagshot

A boy who hears a lesson in history ended by the beauty of peace, and how Napoleon brought ruin upon the world and that he should be forever cursed, will not long have much confidence in his teacher. He wants to hear more about the fighting and less about the peace negotiations. ~William Lee Howard, Peace, Dolls and Pugnacity

[H]istory is a melodrama on the theme of parasitism, characterized by scenes that are exciting or dull, as the case may be, and many a sudden stagetrick. ~Max Nordau, The Interpretation of History

History is but the record of the public and official acts of human beings. It is our object, therefore, to humanize our history and deal with people past and present; people who ate and possibly drank; people who were born, flourished and died; not grave tragedians, posing perpetually for their photographs. ~Bill Nye, History of the United States

History fades into fable; fact becomes clouded with doubt and controversy; the inscription molders from the tablet: the statue falls from the pedestal. Columns, arches, pyramids, what are they but heaps of sand; and their epitaphs, but characters written in the dust? ~Washington Irving, The Sketch Book: Westminster Abbey

For what is history, but... huge libel on human nature, to which we industriously add page after page, volume after volume, as if we were holding up a monument to the honor, rather than the infamy of our species. ~Washington Irving, History of New York

Take from the altars of the past the fire - not the ashes. ~Jean Jaures

The middle sort of historians (of which the most part are) spoil all; they will chew our meat for us. ~Michel de Montaigne, translated

Perhaps nobody has changed the course of history as much as the historians. ~Franklin P. Jones

Woe unto the defeated,
whom history treads
into the dust.
~Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon

The obscurest epoch is today. ~Robert Louis Stevenson, Across the Plains

A mere compilation of facts presents only the skeleton of History; we do but little for her if we cannot invest her with life, clothe her in the habiliments of her day, and enable her to call forth the sympathies of succeeding generations. ~Hannah Farnham Lee, The Huguenots in France and America

It is a great pity that every human being does not, at an early stage of his life, have to write a historical work. He would then realize that the human race is in quite a jam about truth. ~Rebecca West

For me there is no greater subject than history. How a man can study it and not be forced to become a philosopher, I cannot tell. ~George E. Wilson

Our history is every human history; a black and gory business, with more scoundrels than wise men at the lead, and more louts than both put together to cheer and follow. ~Philip Wylie, Generation of Vipers

What would constitute useful history? That which should teach us our duties and our rights, without appearing to teach them. ~Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary

It might be a good idea if the various countries of the world would occasionally swap history books, just to see what other people are doing with the same set of facts. ~Bill Vaughan

Whose game was empires and whose stakes were thrones,
Whose table earth, whose dice were human bones.
~George Gordon, Lord Byron, "The Age of Bronze"

Histories used often to be stories: the fashion now is to leave out the story. Our histories are stall-fed: the facts are absorbed by the reflexions, as the meat is sometimes by the fat. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

History is man's best guess as to what the past would look like if everything had happened in chronological order. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com

A look at the past reminds us of how great is the distance, and how short, over which we have come. The past makes us ask what we have done with us. It makes us ask whether our very achievements are not ironical counterpoint and contrast to our fundamental failures. ~Robert Penn Warren

Knowledge of history frees us to be contemporary. ~Lynn White, Jr.

The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down. ~A. Whitney Brown, The Big Picture

History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren't there. ~George Santayana

I don't know much about history, and I wouldn't give a nickel for all the history in the world. History is more or less bunk. It is a tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history we make today. ~Henry Ford

A lot of guys have had a lot of fun joking about Henry Ford because he admitted one time that he didn't know history. He don't know it, but history will know him. He has made more history than his critics ever read. ~Will Rogers

The past is really almost as much a work of the imagination as the future. ~Jessamyn West

History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies. ~Alexis de Tocqueville, 1856

Whosoever, in writing a modern history, shall follow truth too near the heels, it may haply strike out his teeth. ~Walter Raleigh, History of the World

History in general is a collection of crimes, follies, and misfortunes among which we have now and then met with a few virtues, and some happy times. ~Voltaire, L'Ingénu

History... is, indeed, little more than the register of the 'crimes, follies, and misfortunes' of mankind. But what experience and history teach is this - that peoples and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it. ~Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Philosophy of History, "Introduction," 1807

History balances the frustration of "how far we have to go" with the satisfaction of "how far we have come." It teaches us tolerance for the human shortcomings and imperfections which are not uniquely of our generation, but of all time. ~Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

The dead hand has too long hampered the freedom of the living. ~James Robertson

The historian has before him a jigsaw puzzle from which many pieces have disappeared. These gaps can be filled only by his imagination. ~Gaetano Salvemini, Historian and Scientist

History knows that it can wait for more evidence and review its older verdicts; it offers an endless series of courts of appeal, and is ever ready to reopen closed cases. ~William Stubbs

Skepticism is history's bedfellow. ~Edgar Saltus

The effects of human wickedness are written on the page of history in characters of blood: but the impression soon fades away; so more blood must be shed to renew it. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

History does not unfold: it piles up. ~Robert M. Adams, Bad Mouth

The day before yesterday always has been a glamour day. The present is sordid and prosaic. Time colors history as it does a meerschaum pipe. ~Vincent Starrett, Buried Caesars

History is a pageant and not a philosophy. ~Augustine Birrell, Obiter Dicta: The Muse of History

History, like thermodynamics, won't let you out. ~Ira Haron

Radical historians now tell the story of Thanksgiving from the point of view of the turkey. ~Mason Cooley

History is nothing but a problem of mechanics applied to psychology. ~Hippolyte Taine

History: the category of human phenomena which tends to catastrophe. ~Jules Romains, Men of Good Will

The public history of all countries, and all ages, is but a sort of mask, richly colored. The interior working of the machinery must be foul. ~John Quincy Adams

History — that little sewer where man loves to wallow. ~Francis Ponge

History: a collection of epitaphs. ~Elbert Hubbard, The Roycroft Dictionary

Unfortunately, it is also true that the age's interests often color the past with unhistoric hues. ~Wendell H. Stephenson

Every great writer is a writer of history, let him treat on almost any subject he may. ~Walter Savage Landor, Imaginary Conversation: Diogenes and Plato

[T]he historian must serve two masters, the past and the present. ~Fritz Stern, The Varieties of History

[History is] a damn dim candle over a damn dark abyss. ~W. Stull Holt

[W]hat mountains of dead ashes, wreck and burnt bones, does assiduous pedantry dig up from the past time and name it History. ~Thomas Carlyle

No one can really know the life of his own day, let alone that of times long past. Always the historian sees as in a mirror darkly, the reds and the golds rendered drab by the shadows of time. ~Earl R. Beck, On Teaching History in Colleges and Universities

When we skim along the surface of history we see little but the rough barren rocks that rise out of it. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

Man is an historical animal, with a deep sense of his own past; and if he cannot integrate the past by a history explicit and true, he will integrate it by a history implicit and false. ~Geoffrey Barraclough, History in a Changing World

The idea of history in any age, like the idea of property, or of progress, is an unstable compound; it is put together as needed, by historians or by philosophers, out of the irreconcilable opinions of men. ~F. Smith Fussner, The Historical Revolution

Even the most painstaking history is a bridge across an eternal mystery. ~Bruce Catton, Prefaces to History

Almost the whole of history is but a sequence of horrors. ~Nicolas Chamfort, Maxims and Considerations

One of the deepest impulses in man is the impulse to record, - to scratch a drawing on a tusk or keep a diary, to collect sagas and heap cairns. This instinct as to the enduring value of the past is, one might say, the very basis of civilization. ~John Jay Chapman, Memories and Milestones

History is not the past, but a map of the past drawn from a particular point of view to be useful to the modern traveler. ~Henry Glassie

A history in which every particular incident may be true may on the whole be false. ~Thomas Babington Macaulay

History, that excitable and unreliable old lady. ~Guy de Maupassant, Sur l'Eau

Wars usually have the effect of speeding up the process of history. ~Pieter Geyl, Debates With Historians

[I]t was that there are no simple lessons in history, that it is human nature that repeats itself, not history. ~John Toland

[History] is fallible as every man is fallible. But it is likewise trustworthy, as a man is trustworthy who has looked into himself and come to know how blended are dust and fire in the innermost recesses of the human heart. ~Arthur Bestor

There is nothing more dangerous than history used as a defense, or history used for preaching; history used as a tool is no longer history. ~Marcel Trudel

We are never completely contemporaneous with our present. History advances in disguise; it appears on stage wearing a mask of the preceding scene, and we tend to lose the meaning of the play. ~Régis Debray, Revolution in the Revolution?

History is the open Bible: we historians are not priests to expound it infallibly: our function is to teach people to read it and to reflect upon it for themselves. ~George Macaulay Trevelyan

Delusion about history is a serious matter; it can gravely affect the history that is waiting to be made. ~John Terraine

History supplies little beyond a list of those who have accommodated themselves with the property of others. ~Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary

The real history does not get written, because it is not in people's brains but in their nerves and vitals. ~Alfred North Whitehead, Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead

Clio may be the most austere and chaste of the Muses, but she has been known to come down informally from Mount Helicon in a mood so raffish that there are those who claim to have seen her with her slip showing. ~Willis Thornton, Fable, Fact and History

And how fascinating history is - the long, variegated pageant of man's still continuing evolution of this strange planet, so much the most interesting of all the myriads of spinners through space. ~George Macaulay Trevelyan, An Autobiography

No modern idea has affected history more than the passion of nationalism. ~Charles R. Poinsatte, Understanding History Through the American Experience

A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia. ~David McCullough

The good historian is like the giant of the fairy tale. He knows that wherever he catches the scent of human flesh, there his quarry lies. ~Marc Bloch, The Historian's Craft

The historian has been the hearth at which the soul of the country has been kept alive. ~John Morley, Notes on Politics and History

It has become too easy to see that the luckless men of the past lived by mistakes, even absurd beliefs, so we may well fail in a decent respect for them, and forget that historians of the future will point out that we too lived by myths. ~Herbert J. Muller, Freedom in the Western World

You don't change the course of history by turning the faces of portraits to the wall. ~Jawaharlal Nehru

The best portraits are perhaps those in which there is a slight mixture of caricature; and we are not certain that the best histories are not those in which a little of the exaggeration of fictitious narrative is judiciously employed. Something is lost in accuracy; but much is gained in effect. The fainter lines are neglected; but the great characteristic features are imprinted on the mind forever. ~Thomas Babington Macaulay, Machiavelli

History is the story of events, with praise or blame. ~Cotton Mather

If history were a photograph of the past it would be flat and uninspiring. Happily, it is a painting; and, like all works of art, it fails of the highest truth unless imagination and ideas are mixed with the paints. ~Allen Nevins

A recorded past is no more than a bygone present composed of the footprints made by human beings actually going somewhere but not knowing (in any extended sense), and certainly not revealing to us, how, they came to be afoot on these particular journeys. ~Michael Oakeshott, On History

Historians are themselves products of history. ~Paul K. Conkin and Roland N. Stromberg, Heritage and Challenge

History is politics projected into the past. ~M.N. Pokrovsky

The tapestry of history that seems so full of tragedy when viewed from the front has countless comic scenes woven into its reverse side. In truth, tragedy and comedy are the twin masks of history - its mass appeal. ~José Ortega y Gasset, Historical Reason

It is striking how history, when resting on the memory of men, always touches the bounds of mythology. ~Leopold von Ranke, History of the Popes

It is with nations as it is with individuals. A book of history is a book of sermons. ~Arthur Conan Doyle, Micah Clarke

History portrays everything as if it could not have come otherwise. History is on the side of what happened. ~Elias Canetti, The Human Province

In a certain sense all men are historians. ~Thomas Carlyle, Essays: On History

It is pleasant to be transferred from an office where one is afraid of a sergeant-major into an office where one can intimidate generals, and perhaps this is why history is so attractive to the more timid among us. We can recover self-confidence by snubbing the dead. ~E.M. Forster, Abinger Harvest

The lesson of history is rarely learned by the actors themselves. ~James A. Garfield

The amazing thing since so many variables enter into historical judgments, is not that historians disagree but that they agree as often as they do. ~Louis Gottschalk, Understanding History

History is written by the winners. ~Alex Haley

[History is] that terrible mill in which sawdust rejoins sawdust. ~Edith Sitwell

History is the daughter of time. ~Lucien Febvre, The Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century

History paints the human heart. ~Napoleon I

Events in the past may roughly be divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not matter. ~W.R. Inge, Assessments and Anticipations

It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature. ~Henry James, Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne

History is an argument without end. ~Pieter Geyl

This is my history; like all other histories, a narrative of misery. ~Samuel Johnson

History is a bath of blood. ~William James, Memories and Studies

History... is an aggregation of truths, half-truths, semi-truths, fables, myths, rumors, prejudices, personal narratives, gossip, and official prevarications. It is a canvas upon which thousands of artists throughout the ages have splashed their conceptions and interpretations of a day and an era. Some motifs are grotesque and some are magnificent. ~Philip D. Jordan

We proceed out of history into history again. ~Sidney Alexander

The game of history is usually played by the best and the worst over the heads of the majority in the middle. ~Eric Hoffer, The True Believer

[H]istory gives answers only to those who know how to ask questions. ~Hajo Holborn, History and the Humanities

There is no such thing as a neutral or purely objective historian. Without an opinion a historian would be simply a ticking clock, and unreadable besides. ~Philip Howard

History offers some consolation by reminding us that sin has flourished in every age. ~Will and Ariel Durant, Lessons of History

[T]he historian and the detective have much in common. ~Mark M. Krug, History and the Social Sciences

History is the synthesis of all social sciences turned towards the past. ~Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie

Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river. ~Will Durant

The present is the past rolled up for action, and the past is the present unrolled for understanding. ~Will and Ariel Durant, The Reformation

[T]he historian lays humanity on the couch. ~Lynn White, Jr.

History is the most dangerous product which the chemistry of the mind has concocted. Its properties are well known. It produces dreams and drunkenness. It fills people with false memories, exaggerates their reactions, exacerbates old grievances, torments them in their repose, and encourages either a delirium of grandeur or a delusion of persecution. It makes whole nations bitter, arrogant, insufferable and vainglorious. ~Paul Valéry, Regards sur le Monde Actuel

The study of history is the playground of patriotism. ~George M. Wrong

History, as long as it continues to happen, is always another chance. ~R. Jackson Wilson

History being the record of human action is a richly variegated material, and it is not easy to give a true impression of the stuff by snipping off an inch or two for a pattern. ~Cicely Veronica Wedgwood, Truth and Opinion

History is the propaganda of the victors. ~Ernst Toller

[Some historians hold that history] is just one damned thing after another. ~Arnold Toynbee

Every true history must force us to remember that the past was once as real as the present and as uncertain as the future. ~George Macaulay Trevelyan, Clio, A Muse

People tend to forget that the word "history" contains the word "story". ~Ken Burns

The past is malleable and flexible, changing as our recollection interprets and re-explains what has happened. ~Peter Berger

History is a tool used by politicians to justify their intentions. ~Ted Koppel

The notion that any one person can describe 'what really happened' is an absurdity. If ten - or a hundred - people witness an event, there will be ten - or a hundred - different versions of what took place. ~David and Leigh Eddings

Every major horror of history was committed in the name of an altruistic motive. Has any act of selfishness ever equaled the carnage perpetrated by disciples of altruism? ~Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

[H]istorians have powerful imaginations, which are essential and dangerous. ~Robert Stinson

As Geography without History seemeth a carkasse without motion; so History without Geography wandreth as a Vagrant without a certaine habitation. ~John Smith

The historian reports to us, not events themselves, but the impressions they have made on him. ~Heinrich von Sybel

If the past has been an obstacle and a burden, knowledge of the past is the safest and the surest emancipation. ~John Acton

History provides neither compensation for suffering nor penalties for wrong. ~John Acton

History studies not just facts and institutions, its real subject is the human spirit. ~Fustel de Coulange, La Cité antique, 1864

All other forms of history - economic history, social history, psychological history, above all sociology - seem to me history with the history left out. ~A.J.P. Taylor

Too many so-called historians are really 'hysterians'; their thinking is more visceral than cerebral. When their duties as citizens clash with their responsibilities as scholars, Clio frequently takes a back seat. ~Thomas A. Bailey

History is principally the inaccurate narration of events which ought not to have happened. ~Earnest Albert Hooten, The Twilight of Man

[T]hat is the triumph of history - truth absolute is not at hand; the original with which to match the copy does not exist. ~Jacques Barzun, Clio and the Doctors

Without philosophy, history seems to me to be deaf and dumb. ~Ferdinand Baur, Symbolik und Mythologic

The past remains integral to us all, individually and collectively. We must concede the ancients their place, as I have argued. But their place is not simply back there in a separate and foreign country; it is assimilated in ourselves, and resurrected into an ever-changing present. ~David Lowenthal, The Past Is a Foreign Country

For the rubble of history, which is undigested and therefore goes on blindly, does not lie so thickly on the ground as in our own consciousness. ~Herbert Lüthy

Unlike poetry and music, the art of history is cumulative. ~John Clive, Not By Fact Alone

In studying history we are finding out about ourselves, and in the last resort the natural sciences and even mathematics have the same final end. ~Vivian Hunter Galbraith, An Introduction to the Study of History

History is the record of what one age finds worthy of note in another. ~Jacob Burckhardt

The entire history of mankind is, in any case, nothing but a prolonged fight to the death for the conquest of universal prestige and absolute power. ~Albert Camus, The Rebel

History is concerned primarily with human phenomena, not with natural; and history is doubly human because, as an idea, it is man's creation, challenging him to transcend the limits of information about himself and to discover what he is by finding meaning in what he has done. In short, it is man's commentary on man. ~John Barker, The Superhistorians

For me, in fact, the mark of the historic is the nonchalance with which it picks up an individual and deposits him in a trend, like a house playfully moved by a tornado. ~Mary McCarthy, On the Contrary

The unrecorded past is none other than our old friend, the tree in the primeval forest which fell without being heard. ~Barbara Tuchman

Our historic imagination is at best slightly developed. We generalise and idealise the past egregiously. We set up little toys to stand as symbols for centuries and the complicated lives of countless individuals. ~John Dewey, Characters and Events

[History is] a tyranny over the souls of the dead - and so the imagination of the living. ~William Carlos Williams

The mists remain of the false glory that erupts from history. ~Miguel de Unamuno, En Gredos

History is the discipline closest to life; and life is rarely free of contradictions. ~Karl J. Weintraub, Visions of Culture

History is who we are and why we are the way we are. ~David McCullough

History is the myth, the true myth, of man's fall made manifest in time. ~Henry Miller, Plexus

The historian amputates reality. ~Gaetano Salvemini, Historian and Scientist

History is a jangle of accidents, blunders, surprises and absurdities, and so is our knowledge of it, but if we are to report it at all we must impose some order upon it. ~Henry Steele Commanger, The Nature and the Study of History

History is not a pattern-book of fossilized ideologies. ~Frederick Maurice Powicke, Three Lectures

History... is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake. ~James Joyce, Ulysses

History is but the nail on which the picture hangs. ~Alexandre Dumas, Catherine Howard

The future is dark, the present burdensome. Only the past, dead and buried, bears contemplation. ~G.R. Elton, The Practice of History

All history becomes subjective; in other words there is properly no history, only biography. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: History

History is the essence of innumerable biographies. ~Thomas Carlyle, On History

History only exists, in the final analysis, for God. ~Albert Camus, The Rebel

[History is] petrified imagination. ~Arthur Baer

It is the true office of history to represent the events themselves, together with the counsels, and to leave the observations and conclusions thereupon to the liberty and faculty of every man's judgment. ~Francis Bacon, Advancement of Learning

[History is a] mixture of error and violence. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

No less than the tourist, the writer of history profits from maps. ~Charles F. Mullett

Man simply cannot live as the time-animal and the art-animal that he is, without history. ~Carlton J.H. Hayes

To many of the modern generations, history, like God, is dead. ~Derek Heather

[H]istory is the sextant of states which, tossed by wind and current, would be lost in confusion if they could not fix their position. ~Allan Nevins, The Gateway to History

No other discipline has its portals so wide open to the general public as history. ~Johan Huizinga, Men and Ideas

A mind devoid of prepossessions is likely to be devoid of all mental furniture. And the historian who thinks that he can clean his mind as he would a slate with a wet sponge, is ignorant of the simplest facts of mental life. ~Allen Johnson, The Historian and Historical Evidence

The theologian may indulge the pleasing task of describing Religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings. ~Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

History attempts to provide society with an artificial collective memory. ~Mark M. Krug, History and the Social Sciences

A morsel of genuine history is a thing so rare as to be always valuable. ~Thomas Jefferson

History, in general, only informs us what bad government is. ~Thomas Jefferson

History teaches us the mistakes we are going to make. ~Author Unknown

History is a living whole. If one organ be removed, it is nothing but a lifeless mass. ~Frederic Harrison, The Meaning of History

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Last modified 2015 Sep 27 Sun 15:05 PDT

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