Quotes About History





Mr. Szasz was a professor of history at the University of New Mexico. He died in 2010 at the age of 70. He assembled this list of historical quotations for HNN in 2005.

Historical sense and poetic sense should not, in the end, be contradictory, for if poetry is the little myth we make, history is the big myth we live, and in our living, constantly remake.
Robert Penn Warren
History does not repeat itself. The historians repeat one another.
Max Beerbohm
To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity.
Roy P. Basler
[A] ny fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it.
Oscar Wilde
Do not applaud me. It is not I who speaks to you, but history which speaks through my mouth.
Fustel de Coulanges
History must be written of, by and for the survivors.
Anonymous
History consists of a series of accumulated imaginative inventions.
Voltaire
The history of states and nations has provided some income for historiographers and book dealers, but I know no other purpose it may have served.
Borne
Clio, the muse of history, is as thoroughly infected with lies as a street whore with syphilis.
Schopenhauer
History, history! We fools, what do we know or care.
William Carlos Williams
History is now strictly organized, powerfully disciplined, but it possesses only a modest educational value and even less conscious social purpose.
J. H. Plumb
[History] may be called, more generally still, the Message, verbal or written, which all Mankind delivers to everyman.
Thomas Carlyle
History is a science, no more and no less.
J. B. Bury
The past is always a rebuke to the present.
Robert Penn Warren
A country without a memory is a country of madmen.
George Santayana
History is interim reports issued periodically.
Anonymous
Imagination plays too important a role in the writing of history, and what is imagination but the projection of the author's personality.
Pieter Geyl
History is philosophy teaching by example and also by warning. Lord Bolingbroke
History teaches everything including the future.
Lamartine
If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.
Aristotle
With the historian it is an article of faith that knowledge of the past is a key to understanding the present.
Kenneth Stampp
History is something that happens to other people.
Anonymous
Any time gone by was better.
Jorge Manrique
There is no history of mankind, there is only an indefinite number of histories of all kinds of aspects of human life.
Karl Popper
The deepest, the only theme of human history, compared to which all others are of subordinate importance, is the conflict of skepticism with faith.
Goethe
History is not melodrama, even if it usually reads like that.
Robert Penn Warren
Who does not know that the first law of historical writing is the truth.
Cicero
History has become more important than ever because of the to unprecedented ability of the historical sciences to take in man's life on earth as a whole.
Alfred Kazin
The certainty of history seems to be in direct inverse ratio to what we know about it.
Anonymous
God alone knows the future, but only an historian can alter the .past.
Ambrose Bierce
History is ultimately more important than its singers.
Michael Harrington
Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.
Machiavelli
Writing intellectual history is like trying to nail jelly to the wall.
William Hesseltine
History is the memory of things said and done.
Carl L. Becker
History is life; he who has not lived, or has lived only enough to write a doctoral dissertation, is too inexperienced with life to write good history.
Louis Gottschalk
History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.
Robert Penn Warren
There will always be a connection between the way men Late the past and the way in which they contemplate the present.
Buckle
History is the enactment of ritual on a permanent and universal stage; and its perpetual commemoration.
Norman O. Brown
The historian must not try to know what is truth, if he values his honesty; for if he cares for his truths, he is certain to falsify his facts.
Henry Adams
History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten.
George Santayana
What else can history teach us? Only the vanity of believing we can impose our theories on history. Any philosophy which asserts that human experience repeats itself is ineffectual.
Jacques Ellul
History is not the accumulation of events of every kind which happened in the past. It is the science of human societies.
Fustel de Coulanges
History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.
Voltaire
History has to be rewritten because history is the selection of those threads of causes or antecedents that we are interested in.
O. W. Holmes, Jr.
The researches of many eminent antiquarians have already thrown much darkness on the subject; and it is possible, if they continue their labors, that we shall soon know nothing at all.
Artemus Ward
Nothing capable of being memorized is history.
R. G. Collingwood
A society in stable equilibrium is-by definition-one that ha~ no history and wants no historians.
Henry Adams
It should be known that history is a discipline that has a great number of approaches.
Ibn Khalduin of Tunis
When a historian enters into metaphysics he has gone to a far country from whose bourne he will never return a historian.
Shailer Mathews
A man rising in the world is not concerned with history; he is too busy making it. But a citizen with a fixed place in the community wants to acquire a glorious past just as he acquires antique furniture. By that past he is reassured of his present importance; in it he finds strength to face the dangers that lie in front of him.
Malcolm Cowley
We investigate the past not to deduce practical political lessons, but to find out what really happened.
T. F. Tout
That generations of historians have resorted to what might be called "proof by haphazard quotation" does not make the procedure valid or reliable; it only makes it traditional.
Lee Benson
The past does not influence me; I influence it.
Willem De Kooning
Very deep, very deep is the well of the past. Should we not call it bottomless?
Thomas Mann
Nothing falsifies history more than logic.
Guizot
History is a great deal closer to poetry than is generally realised: in truth, I think, it is in essence the same.
A. L. Rowse
I said there was but one solitary thing about the past worth remembering, and that was the fact that it is past-can't be restored.
Mark Twain
History is a myth that men agree to believe.
Napoleon
To converse with historians is to keep good company; many of them were excellent men, and those who were not, have taken care to appear such in their writings.
Lord Bolingbroke
History is the distillation of rumour.
Thomas Carlyle
It is the essence of the poor that they do not appear in history.
Anonymous
As history stands, it is a sort of Chinese play, without end andl without lesson. With these impressions I wrote the last line of my History, asking for a round century before going further.
Henry Adams
This I regard as history's highest function, to let no worthy action be uncommemorated, and to hold out the reprobation of posterity as a terror to evil words and deeds.
Tacitus
I don't believe the truth will ever be known, and I have a great contempt for history.
Gen. George Meade
History is the essence of innumerable biographies.
Thomas Carlyle
If the past has been an obstacle and a burden, knowledge of the past is the safest and the surest emancipation.
Lord Acton
History is the invention of historians.
Attributed to Napoleon
"History" is a Greek word which means, literally, just "investigation."
Arnold Toynbee
History will die if not irritated. The only service I can do to my profession is to serve as a flea.
Henry Adams
Myth, memory, history-these are three alternative ways to capture and account for an elusive past, each with its own persuasive claim.
Warren I. Susman
Inertia is the first law of history, as it is of physics.
Morris R. Cohen
The past does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.
Mark Twain
[History is] little else than a long succession of useless cruelties.
Voltaire
Man in a word has no nature; what he has. ..is history.
Jose Ortega y Gasset
In mass societies, myth takes the place of history.
William Bosenbrook
History is a great dust heap.
Thomas Carlyle
[History is] little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.
Edward Gibbon
History is not a science; it is a method.
Charles Seignobos
All modern wars start in the history classroom.
Anonymous
History is the self-consciousness of humanity.
Droyson
It is very hard to remember that events now long in the past were once in the future.
Maitland
History is still in large measure poetry to me.
Jakob Burckhardt
Histhry is a post-mortem examination. It tellsye what a counthry died iv. But I'd like to know what it lived iv.
Mr. Dooley (Finley Peter Dunne)
History remembers only the brilliant failures and the brilliant successes.
Randolph S. Bourne
History will absolve me.
Fidel Castro
History in our kind of society is not a luxury but a necessity.
Patrick Hazard
In its amplest meaning History includes every trace and vestige of everything that man has done or thought since first he appeared on the earth.
James Harvey Robinson
History without politics descends to mere Literature.
Sir John Robert Seely
[History is] the most difficult of all the sciences.
Fustel de Coulanges
In schoolbooks and in literature we can separate ecclesiastical and political history; in the life of mankind they are intertwined.
Leopold von Ranke
History has a way of censoring contemporary values.
Anonymous
Anyone who is going to make anything out of history will, sooner or later, have to do most of the work himself. He will have to read, and consider, and reconsider, and then read some more.
Geoffrey Barraclough
We learn from history that we never learn anything from history.
Hegel
While the mediocre European is obsessed with history, the mediocre American is ignorant of it.
Anonymous
The voice of history is often little more than the organ of hatred or flattery.
Edward Gibbon
History is reading all that you can as fast as you can and - remembering as much as you can.
Lynn Berleffi Darr
History may defeat the Christ but it nevertheless points to him as the law of life.
Reinhold Niebuhr
History is not narration' as Thierry thought, nor analysis as Guizot thought, it is resurrection.
Michelet
Everyone falsifies history even if it is only his own personal history. Sometimes the falsification is deliberate, sometimes unconscious; put always the past is altered to suit the needs of the present. The best we can say of any account is not that it is the real truth at last, but that this is how the story appears now.
Joseph Freeman
He who has money, lives long: he who has authority, can do no wrong: he who has might, establishes right. Such is history! Ecce historia!
Gottfried Benn
Historians are to be read with moderation and kindness, and it is to be remembered that they can not be in all circumstances like Lynceus.
Quoted by Cotton Mather
Historians, it is said, fall into one of three categories:
Those who lie.
Those who are mistaken.
Those who do not know.
Anonymous
The course of History reflects a continual contest between limited, orderly processes of development and historical accident.
H. Cord Meyer
If history teaches anything about the causes of revolution-and history does not teach much but still teaches considerably more than social-science theories-it is that a disintegration of political systems precedes revolutions, that the telling symptom of disintegration is & progressive erosion of governmental authority, and that this erosion is caused by the government's inability to function properly, from which spring the citizens' doubts about its legitimacy.
Hannah Arendt
I often think it odd that it [history] should be so dull, for a great
deal of it must be invention.
Catherine Morland
In a word, we may gather out of History a policy no less wise than I eternal; by the comparison and application of other mens fore-passed miseries with our own like errours and ill-deservings.
Sir Walter Raleigh
[Some historians hold that history] is just one damned thing after another.
Arnold Toynbee
Years should not be devoted to the acquisition of dead languages or .to the study of history which, for the most part, is a detailed account of things that never occurred. It is useless to fill the individual with dates of great battles, with the births and deaths of kings. They should be taught the philosophy of history, the growth of nations, of philosophies, theories, and, above all, of the sciences.
Robert G. Ingersoll
History is not a work of philosophy, it is a painting; it is necessary to combine narration with the representation of the subject, that is, it is necessary simultaneously to design and to paint; it is necessary to give to men the language and the sentiments of their times, not to regard the past in the light of our own opinion.
Chateaubriand
[History is] a useless heap of facts.
Lord Chesterfield
The supreme purpose of history is a better world.
Herbert Hoover
A page of history is worth a volume of logic. O. W. Holmes
I am far too much in doubt about the present, far too perturbed .about the future, to be otherwise than profoundly reverential about the past.
Augustine Birrell
Happy people have no history.
Leo Tolstoy
Purely historical thought is nihilistic; it wholeheartedly accepts the evil of history.
Albert Camus
You must always know the past, for there is no real Was, there is only Is.
William Faulkner
There is properly no history, only biography.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
[History is] not factual at all, but a series of accepted judgments. Geoffrey Barraclough
History itself touches only a small part of a nation's life. Most of the activities and sufferings of the people ... have been and will remain without written record.
E. L. Wood word
Whatever is old corrupts, and the past turns to snakes.
Ralph W. Emerson
To look back upon history is inevitably to distort it.
Norman Pearson
The literature of the past is a bore.
O. W. Holmes
Life is not simple, and therefore history, which is past life, is not simple.
David Shannon
Skepticism is history's bedfellow.
Edgar Saltus
The moralist must praise heroism and condemn cruelty; but the moralist does not explain events.
Georges Lefebvre
The writing of history reflects the interests, predilections, and even prejudices of a given generation.
John Hope Franklin
History would be an impossible area of human reflection if there were no recurrent attributes of human nature.
Willson H. Coates
The doctrine of the absolute uniqueness of events in history seems nonsense.
Crane Brinton
But history is neither watchmaking nor cabinet construction. It is an endeavor toward better understanding.
Marc Bloch
I know "histhry isn't thrue, Hinnessey, because it ain't like what I see ivery day in Halstead Street.
Mr. Dooley (Finley Peter Dunne)
The historian amputates reality.
Gaetano Salvemini
"History" is the name we as human beings give to the horizon of consciousness within which we live.
Harvey Cox
I want to be as though new-born, knowing nothing, absolutely nothing about Europe.
Paul Klee
The first law of history is to dread uttering a falsehood; the next is not to fear stating the truth; lastly, the historian's writings should be open to no suspicion of partiality or animosity.
Leo XIII
Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular. Its chief use is only to discover the constant and universal principles of human nature.
David Hume
A complete assemblage of the smallest facts of human history will tell in the end.
J. B. Bury
It is not man's evolution but his attainment that is the greatest lesson of the past and the highest theme of history.
George Macaulay Trevelyan
History has now been for the first time systematically considered, and has been found, like other phenomena, subject to invariable laws.
August Comte
In the last resort, sheer insight is the greatest asset of all.
Herbert Butterfield
If history is a collection of events which come to life for us because of what some actors did, some recorders recorded, and some previewers decided to retell, a clinician attempting to interpret an historical event must first of all get the facts straight.
Erik Erikson
History, by appraising. ..[the students] of the past, will enable them to judge of the future.
Thomas Jefferson
The case against the notion of historical objectivity is like the case against international law, or international morality; that it does not exist.
Sir Isaiah Berlin
We cannot escape history and neither can we escape a desire to understand it.
Anonymous
History is the most aristocratic of all literary pursuits, because it obliges the historian to be rich as well as educated.
Henry Adams
History is not only a particular branch of knowledge, but a particular mode and method of knowledge in other branches.
Lord Acton
Knowledge Qf history frees us to be contemporary.
Lynn Write, Jr.
History should rescue past lost causes from oblivion.
Anonymous
Once historians wrote to instruct men in right examples and warn " against evil ones. Now wiser in their generation they write to instruct other historians in true methodology and to warn against false ones.
Unsigned article in the Times Literary Supplement, April 7, 1966
History is the narrative of great actions with praise or blame.
Quoted by Cotton Mather
Hope is the other side of history.
Marcia Cavell
I believe that history is capable of anything. There exists no folly that men have not tried out.
C. G. Jung
The chief practical use of history is to deliver us from plausible historical analogies.
James Bryce
It is proverbial, of course, that man never learns from history, and, as a rule, in respect to a problem of the present, it can teach us simply nothing. The new must be made through untrodden regions, without suppositions, and often, unfortunately, without piety also.
C. G. Jung
No opinion can be trusted; even the facts may be nothing but a printer's error.
W. C. Williams
History is the shank of the social sciences.
C. Wright Mills
No historian should be trusted implicitly.
G. Kitson Clark
The past is never dead; it's not even past.
Gavin Stevens (William Faulkner)
History is the narrative of great actions with praise or blame. Quoted by Cotton Mather
Hope is the other side of history.
Marcia Cavell
I believe that history is capable of anything. There exists no folly that men have not tried out.
C. G. Jung
The chief practical use of history is to deliver us from plausible historical analogies.
James Bryce
It is proverbial, of course, that man never learns from history, and, as a rule, in respect to a problem of the present, it can teach us simply nothing. The new must be made through untrodden regions, without suppositions, and often, unfortunately, without piety also.
C. G. Jung
No opinion can be trusted; even the facts may be nothing but a printer's error.
W. C. Williams
History is the shank of the social sciences.
C. Wright Mills
No historian should be trusted implicitly.
G. Kitson Clark
The historian ought to be the humblest of men; he is faced a dozen times a day with the evidence of his own ignorance; he is perpetually confronted with his own humiliating inability to interpret his material correctly; he is, in a sense that no other writer is, in bondage to that material.
C. V. Wedgwood
...on the breast of that huge Mississippi of falsehood called history.
Matthew Arnold
Half the job in teaching history is in getting the students interested in the questions the Professor deems important.
Sidney E. Mead
History is only a catalogue of the forgotten.
Henry Adams
Without passion there might be no errors, but without passion there would certainly be no history.
C. V. Wedgwood
[History is] a graveyard of aristocracies.
Vilfredo Pareto
[History is] the doubtful story of successive events.
Bosanquet
If History teaches any lesson at all, it is that there are no historical lessons.
Lucien Febvre
History, to be above evasion or dispute, must stand on documents, not on opinions.
Lord Acton
History thus becomes largely a study of character. Insight into temperament is hardly less important than the probing of "original materials."
Charles F. Adams, Jr.
At a certain point one ceases to defend a certain view of history; one must defend history itself.
E. P. Thompson
Without the imaginative insight which goes with creative literature, history cannot be intelligibly written.
C. V. Wedgwood
It is clear that history differs from the other disciplines in having
an approach and not an area of its own.
Leonard Krieger
[History is a] costly and superfluous luxury of the understanding.
Nietzsche
The history of the world is none other than the progress of the , consciousness of freedom.
Hegel
History, in a democratic age, tends to become a series of popular apologies, and is inclined to assume that the people can do no wrong.
A. F. Pollard
The passion for tidiness is the historian's occupational disease.
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
History consists, for the greater part, of the miseries brought upon the world by pride, ambition, avarice, revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy, ungoverned zeal, and all the train of disorderly appetite.
Edmund Burke
History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awaken.
Stephen Daedalus (James Joyce)
History is that which has happened and that which goes on happening in time. But also it is the stratified record upon which we set our feet, the ground beneath us; and the deeper the roots of our being go down into the layers that lie below and beyond the ... confines of our ego, yet at the same time feed and condition it, ... the heavier is our life with thought and the weightier is the soul of our flesh.
Thomas Mann
We have had to learn that history is neither a God nor a redeemer.
Reinhold Niebuhr
Since historical reconstruction is a rational process, only justified and indeed possible if it involves the human reason, what we call history is the mess we call life reduced to some order. pattern and possibly purpose.
G. R. Elton
I thought it necessary to study history, even to study it deeply, in order to obtain a clear meaning of our immediate time.
Paul Valery
Between history and the eternal I have chosen history because I like certainties. Of it, at least, I am certain, and how can I deny this force crushing me.
Albert Camus
History ... may be regarded as an artificial extension and : broadening of our memories and may be used to overcome the natural bewilderment of all unfamiliar situations.
James Harvey Robinson
Nothing is easier to teach than historical method, but, when learned, it has little use.
Henry Adams
To develop and perfect and arm conscience is the great achievement of history.
Lord Acton
We can be almost certain of being wrong about the future, if we are wrong about the past.
C. K. Chesterton
Happy is the country that has no history.
Anonymous
History: an accdunt mostly false, of events unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.
Ambrose Bierce
History is the most dangerous product evolved from the chemistry of the intellect. ...History will justify anything. It teaches precisely nothing, for it contains everything and furnishes examples of everything.
Paul Valery
What man is, only his history tells.
Wilhelm Dilthey
In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.
Edmund Burke
Also, what mountains of dead ashes, wreck and burnt bones, does assiduous pedantry dig up from the past time and name it History.
Thomas Carlyle
The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
L. P. Hartley
The history of thought, and therefore all history, is the re-enactment of past thought in the historian's own mind.
R. G. Collingwood
Politics are vulgar when they are not liberalised by history, and history fades into mere literature when it loses sight of its relation to practical politics.
Sir John Seeley
In a certain sense all men are historians.
Thomas Carlyle
That which is past and gone is irrevocable. Wise men have enough to do with the present and things to come.
Francis Bacon
The things that we know about the past may be divided into those which probably never happened, or those which do not much matter. Dean Inge
After the collection of facts, the search for causes.
Hippolyte Taine
Universal history, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here.
Thomas Carlyle
History is, in its essentials, the science of change. It knows and it teaches that it is impossible to find two events that are ever exactly alike, because the conditions from which they spring are never identical.
Marc Bloch
[History was] a damn dim candle over a damn dark abyss.
W. Stull Holt
History is the recital of facts represented as true. Fable, on the other hand, is the recital of facts represented as fiction. The history of man's ideas is nothing more than the chronicle of human error.
Voltaire
Pour faire de l'histoire, il faut savoir compter.
Georges Lefebvre
Problems cannot all be solved, for, as they are solved, new aspects are continually revealed: the historian opens the way, he does not close it.
Sir Maurice Powicke
Writing history is a perpetual exercise in judgment.
Cushing Strout
What distinguishes the historian from the collector of historical facts is generalization.
E. H. Carr
History furnishes to politics all the arguments that it needs, for the chosen cause.
Romain Rolland
History is and should be a science.
Fustel de Coulanges
Voltaire to the contrary, history is a bag of tricks which the dead have played upon historians.
Lynn White, Jr.
History repeats itself because no one was listening the first time.
Anonymous
History within itself cannot be transcended. ... In history itself there are only relative victories.
Ernst Troeltsch
Since God himself cannot change the past, he is obliged to tolerate the existence of historians.
Attributed to Samuel Butler
The value of history. ..is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.
R. G. Collingwood
History is a means of access to ourselves.
Lynn White, Jr.
People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them.
James Baldwin
I, indeed, following the true law of history, have never set down any fact that I have not learned from trustworthy speakers or writers.
William of Malmesbury
One must overcome history by dogma.
Cardinal Manning
We study history in order to intervene in the course of history. Adolf von Harnack
Contemporary history is the least valuable of all kinds. The relative importance of events and persons cannot be fairly estimated till time has tested them and shown which is great and which is small.
S. O. McConnell
One ceases to be lonely only in recollection; perhaps that is why people read history.
John Andrew Rice
History, as the study of the past, makes the coherence of what happened comprehensible by reducing events to a dramatic pattern and seeming them in a simple form.
Johan Huizinga
In analysing history do not be too profound, for often the causes are quite superficial.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Not all that is presented to us as history has really happened; and what really happened did not actually happen the way it is presented to us; moreover, what really happened is only a small part of all that happened. Everything in history remains uncertain, the largest events as well as the smallest occurrence.
Goethe
History is full of delightful reversals, where the opposite of what one predicts comes true.
Edmund Carpenter
History does not usually make real sense until long afterward.
Bruce Catton
The historian must have some conception of how men who are not historians behave.
An English critic on Edward Gibbon
Poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher theory than . history; for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular.
Aristotle
History: a collection of epitaphs.
Elbert Hubbard
Every work of history constructs contexts and designs, forms in which past reality can be comprehended. History creates comprehensibility primarily by arranging facts meaningfully and only in a very limited sense by establishing strict causal connections.
Johan Huizinga
Let the science and research of the historian find the fact and let his imagination and art make clear its significance.
George Trevelyan
In history there are no real beginnings.
Warren Sylvester Smith
History is not history unless it is the truth.
Abraham Lincoln
The past in the hands of historians is not what it was.
Lynn White, Jr.
My own conclusion is that history is simply social development along the lines of weakest resistance, and that in most cases the line of weakest resistance is found as unconsciously by society as by water.
Henry Adams
Every work of history constructs contexts and designs, forms in which past reality can be comprehended. History creates comprehensibility primarily by arranging facts meaningfully and only in a very limited sense by establishing strict causal connections.
Johan Huizinga
Let the science and research of the historian find the fact and let his imagination and art make clear its significance.
George Trevelyan
In history there are no real beginnings.
Warren Sylvester Smith
History is not history unless it is the truth.
Abraham Lincoln
The past in the hands of historians is not what it was.
Lynn White, Jr.
My own conclusion is that history is simply social development along the lines of weakest resistance, and that in most cases the line of weakest resistance is found as unconsciously by society as by water.
Henry Adams
Historian, discover the truth and publish it.
Inscription over the grave of Oklahoma historian Angie Debo.
[History is] an accumulative science, gradually gathering truth through the steady and plodding efforts of countless practitioners turning out countless monographs.
Gordon Wood
Every work of history constructs contexts and designs forms in which past reality can be comprehended. History creates comprehensibility primarily by arranging facts meaningfully and only in a very limited sense by establishing strict causal corrections.
Johan Huizinga
History does not belong to us; we belong to it.
Hans-Georg Gadamer
History is only a value of relation.
Henry Adams
We have lost our grip on historical truth.
Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob in Telling the Truth About History
Nothing endures but change.
Heraclitus
The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know.
Harry S Truman
I ain't no historian but I happen to savvy this incident.
Charles M. Russell
History proves nothing because it contains everything.
Emil Cioran
How real is history? Is it just an enormous soup so full of disparate ingredients that it is uncharacterizable?
Thomas Cahill
Historical awareness is a kind of resurrection.
William Least Heat Moon
History, facts and truth are all Divine Products, and must prevail.
Charles A. Briggs
Tradition usually rests upon something which men did know; history is often the manufacture of the mere liar.
Jefferson Davis
For history is to the nation as memory is to the individual.
A.M. Schlesinger, Jr.
The past has always been the handmaid of authority.
J.H. Plumb
History is no more than memories refreshed.
Peter C. Newman
A new future requires a new past.
Eric Foner
Honest history is the weapon of freedom.
A.M. Schlesinger, Jr.
Whosoever in writing a modern history shall follow the truth too near the heels it may haply strike out his teeth.
Sir Walter Raleigh
When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.
Alexis de Tocqueville
And history becomes legend and legend becomes history.
J. Cocteau
The record - history - exists only in the media, and the people who make the media, make history.
James Monaco
Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past.
Karl Marx
Revisionism is a healthy historiographical process, and no one, not even revisionists, should be exempt from it.
John Lewis Gaddis
There will always be a connection between the way in which men contemplate the past and the way in which they contemplate the present.
Harry Thomas Buckle
For wisdom is the great end of History. It is designed to supply the want of experience.
Hugh Blair
A reason that the past is so hated by the young is that there is no way to be entirely free of it.
Paul Horgan
At the heart of good history is a naughty little secret: good storytelling.
Stephen Schiff
History is the record of encounters between character and circumstance.
Donald Creighton
Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward.
Søren Kierkegaard
History is the new poetry.
Thomas Carlyle
My country has no history, only a past.
New Brunswick poet Alden Nowlan
[History] is little else than a picture of human crimes and misfortunes.
Voltaire
It takes three facts to make a truth.
Eugene Manlove Rhodes
[I]f one has an exaggerated view of the past, then one is obviously going to have a diminished view of the present.
Joseph Nye
History is the projection of ideology into the past.
quoted from an unnamed source by John Keegan
History teaches everything, even the future.
Alphonse de Lamartine
History never repeats itself; at best it sometimes rhymes.
Mark Twain
History isn't really about the past - settling old scores. It's about defining the present and who we are.
Ken Burns
I wonder why we hate the past so.
W.D. Howells to Mark Twain

It's so damned humiliating.
Twain's reply
A historian has many duties. Allow me to remind you of two which are important. The first is not to slander; the second is not to bore.
Voltaire
I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.
Sir Winston Churchill
We learn from history that we do not learn from history.
Hegel
The consciousness of the past weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.
Karl Marx
There is no history, only histories.
Karl Popper
To be ignorant of the past is to remain a child.
paraphrase from an observation by Cicero
As the primary end of History is to record truth, impartiality, fidelity and accuracy are the fundamental qualities of an Historian.
Hugh Blair
The world is too dangerous to live in - not because of the people who do evil but because of the people who sit and let it happen.
Albert Einstein
History is the only laboratory we have in which to test the consequences of thought.
Etienne Gilson
The only form of fiction in which real characters do not seem out of place is history. In novels they are detestable.
Oscar Wilde
God cannot alter the past; historians can.
Samuel Butler
The lack of a sense of history is the damnation of the modern world.
Robert Penn Warren
There is no history, only fictions of varying degrees of plausibility.
Voltaire
History has thrust something upon me from which I cannot turn away.
Martin Luther King Jr.
The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.
Oscar Wilde
Novels arise out of the shortcomings of History.
A.S. Byatt
History is too much about wars; biography too much about great men.
Virginia Woolf in A Room of One's Own
The only true knowledge of things is the knowledge of their causes.
Archbishop Leighton
History is a reconstruction of life in its wholeness, not of the superficial aspects, but of the deeper, inner organic processes.
Michelet
All our knowledge - past, present, and future - is nothing compared to what we will never know.
Tsiolkovsky
But then history does not only consist of documents.
John Lukacs
Any historical narrative is a bundle of silences.
Michel Ralph Trouillot
The use of history as therapy means the corruption of history as history.
A.M. Schlesinger, Jr.
History is not a catalogue but…a convincing version of events.
A.J.P. Taylor
History belongs above all to the man…who needs models, teachers, comforters and cannot find them among his contemporaries.
Friedrich Nietzsche
History is an indispensable even though not the highest form of intellectual endeavor.
Carl Becker
History is neither written nor made without love or hate.
Theodor Mommsen
History makes some people feel good and other people feel bad.
Joyce King
History to be above evasion must stand on documents not on opinion.
Lord Acton
History is the only science enjoying the ambiguous fortune of being required to be at the same time an art.
Johann Gustav Droysen
The historian must have…some conception of how men who are not historians behave. Otherwise he will move in a world of the dead.
E.M. Forester
History at its best is vicarious experience.
Edmund S. Morgan
Every day grows more amnesiac about its recent past.
Hilton Kramer
History is the great propagator of doubt.
A.J.P. Taylor
Understanding the past requires pretending that you don't know the present.
Paul Fussell
History thus returns forever - as film.
Anton Kaes
History is often not what actually happened but what is recorded as such.
Henry L. Stimson
[History] is a closeout sale of new and old public myths.
Anton Kaes
History, in brief, is an analysis of the past in order that we may understand the present and guide our conduct into the future.
Sidney E. Mead
All history is an attempt to find pattern and meaning in a section of human experience, and every historian worthy of the name raises questions about man's ultimate destiny and the meaning of all history to which, as history, he can provide no answers. The answers belong to the realm of theology.
G.B. Caird
History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.
Abba Eban
Chronology, so the saying goes, is the last refuge of the feeble-minded and the only resort for historians.
Joseph J. Ellis
[B]inary opposites fit nicely the formulation of history as written, but they do little to capture the messy, inchoate reality of history as lived.
Ira Berlin
History is not history unless it is the truth.
Abraham Lincoln in a letter to W.H. Herndon, 1856
We cannot escape history.
Abraham Lincoln in Annual Message to Congress, Dec. 1, 1862
Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it.
N. Scott Momaday
If a modern historian were to show his works to the Venerable Bede, the man might well say, well and good, but I want to know how it was that God ordained the conversion of the British Isles.
Charles W. Cole
History is, indeed, an argument without end.
A.M. Schlesinger, Jr.

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More Comments:


Russel John Tarr - 4/12/2008

Hi, I've put together an activity for students to stimulate discussion about some of these quotes (and many others!) at
http://www.activehistory.co.uk/quotes.htm

Feedback appreciated!


Rod Ellis MacLean - 3/7/2007

I wonder why there are so few quotes frmo women in that list?


Tim Lacy - 5/8/2006

"History is philosophy teaching by examples." - Henry St. John, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke, 'Letters on the Study and Use of History', 1770 (p. 14).


Lorraine Paul - 1/21/2006

I am absolutely amazed that the most famous, and relevant, quote regarding history has been totally ignored by all you learned people! Are you all so narrow-minded as to eschew a quote because it was made by Karl Marx? Is intellectual inquiry so stifled in the US? Please, please tell me this isn't so!!

"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."

Even though one may not agree with it, it is too important to be ignored.


Alison Hoff - 12/29/2005

The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will only escape it by adding somethign new." Wendell Berry


Chris Connolly - 7/16/2005

The phrase 'history is, indeed, an argument without end' did not originate with Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Its origin is in the 1949 work by the Dutch historian Pieter Geyl 'Napoleon: For and Against'.


HNN - 5/4/2005

"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


HNN - 3/23/2005

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


Stephanie Mei Legaspi Gaw - 2/11/2005

"History is the start of a ending, the terminal of a beginning and the summary of everything."


matt john richards - 9/27/2004

Why is it that no one cares about the wolrds around us until the worlds around us collapse on us?


Chris Michael Cromwell - 9/9/2004

History is how the people of tomorrow remember today. The past is seen as what is wanted to be seen. Those who record our history write their history, not the world's. God stands as the only one who truly remembers everything of our lifetimes.


Adrian Arceo - 7/29/2004

“Reasons vindicating the study of history are just excuses made by historians to justify their interests”
- Adrian Arceo


Vince Le - 9/19/2003

I know nothing but of my own ignorance
History is written by ignorant people biased subiminally


Fred Brems - 9/4/2003

Excellent selection of quotes! Thanks for your work. However, I am looking for one of Winston Churchill's in particular about writing history - it has to do with historians only being able to carry a torch back in time and see shadows and not much area. Any idea? I saw it once awhile back but have been unable to locate it anywhere.
No rush. Thanks!
Fred


Karl Krause - 9/3/2003

I myself have been philophisizing about history and here is my conclusion and philosophy about history. The present is merely a patch for history taken from the same piece of cloth. We as humans fail at the same things over and over and no matter how we try to sew them up, we still manage to fail. Things come apart. The fabric we use to patch up the hole of history tears and we must repatch again and again. Maybe there is something we are not learning?


Jim Turner - 8/26/2003

“Every old man that dies is a library that burns”
— Amadou Hampate Ba, African ethnographer

Thanks for your quote list, I will pass it on to many rural history curators throughout Arizona.


editor - 8/5/2003

Will Bagley, writing in the Salt Lake Tribune http://www.sltrib.com/2003/Aug/08032003/utah/80804.asp


Historians do a terrible job explaining history. When asked to rate professions, American high school students picked fighter pilot as the most exciting occupation and historian as most boring, because history was all figured out.
Wrong. History is littered with unanswered questions and unresolved enigmas -- and every answer raises 10 new questions. We fail to communicate how fascinating our jobs are. As historian Dale Morgan wrote, "I find the more I find out, the more I need to find out."


James Jones - 7/25/2003

"I think we agree, the past is over."
George W. Bush, May 10, 2000


editor - 7/22/2003

James F. Brooks, as quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education, 2003:

"You may be done with the past, or think that you are, but it's never really finished with you."

http://chronicle.com/free/v49/i36/36a01401.htm


James Wilson - 5/10/2003

The quotation by Catherine Morland ("I often think it odd that it [history] should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention.") ought to be attributed to the author, Jane Austen. Catherine Morland is the heroine of _Northanger Abbey_.


John Kipper - 5/1/2003

One of my favorites is:
"History is the process by which complicated truth is reduced to simplified falsehood."

I read this years ago and cannot remember the author's name. CAn any out there help me?


Lloyd Drako - 5/1/2003

"There is no logic or justice in history, there is only chronology."
Paul Johnson


John Shilrey - 5/1/2003

Written history is as good as the scholarship of the historian. Good historical scholars are are rare and wonderful people.

John B. Shirley

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