Quotations about History

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

All the ancient histories, as one of our wits say, are just fables that have been agreed upon.  ~Voltaire, Jeannot et Colin

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

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

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

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

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

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, www.robertbrault.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

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; priviledging 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, www.robertbrault.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.

Quotations about History 2 


Post a Comment

Copyright © Kata-Kata Mutiara