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What is history after all? History is facts which become lies in the end.

JEAN COCTEAU, The Observer, Sep. 22, 1957

The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.

ALDOUS HUXLEY, The Devils of Loudun

History is not a suicide note -- it is a record of our survival.


The facts of history have been too well rehearsed.

JOHN ASHBERY, "The System," Three Poems

What would happen if history could be rewritten as casually as erasing a blackboard? Our past would be like the shifting sands at the seashore, constantly blown this way or that by the slightest breeze. History would be constantly changing every time someone spun the dial of a time machine and blundered his or her way into the past. History, as we know it, would be impossible. It would cease to exist.

MICHIO KAKU, Hyperspace

More history is made by secret handshakes than by battles, bills and proclamations.

JOHN BARTH, attributed, Words from the Wise

History gets reinterpreted as time goes on. Many times, the participants are lost in the retelling of the story.

BUZZ ALDRIN, Esquire, Jan. 2003

History is not like some individual person, which uses men to achieve its ends. History is nothing but the actions of men in pursuit of their ends.

KARL MARX, Die Heilige Familie

History is instructive. And what it suggests to people is that even if they do little things, if they walk on the picket line, if they join a vigil, if they write a letter to their local newspaper. Anything they do, however small, becomes part of a much, much larger sort of flow of energy. And when enough people do enough things, however small they are, then change takes place.

HOWARD ZINN, interview, Sep. 9, 2005

Men need history; it helps them to have an idea of who they are. But history, like sanctity, can reside in the heart; it is enough that there is something there.

V. S. NAIPAUL, The Enigma of Arrival

There are singular moments in history, dates that divide all that goes before from all that comes after.

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, State of the Union Address, Jan. 31, 1990

Many scholars have complained of our tendency to see history only in conflicts, but I am not convinced they are right. It is in conflict that our values are exposed.


Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.

KARL MARX, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

If all human beings understood history, they might cease making the same stupid mistakes over and over.

ISAAC ASIMOV, Prelude to Foundation

There is no history worthy attention save that of free nations; the history of nations under the sway of despotism is no more than a collection of anecdotes.

CHAMFORT, The Cynic's Breviary

No man is free of his own history.


History is nothing but assisted and recorded memory.

GEORGE SANTAYANA, The Life of Reason

History is not melodrama, even if it usually reads like that. It was real blood, not tomato catsup or the pale ectoplasm of statistics, that wet the ground at Bloody Angle and darkened the waters of Bloody Pond. It modifies our complacency to look at the blurred and harrowing old photographs — the body of the dead sharpshooter in the Devil's Den at Gettysburg or the tangled mass in the Bloody Lane at Antietam.

ROBERT PENN WARREN, The Legacy of the Civil War

History is mainly a record of wars, and it has bequeathed the sorry fact that still nations devote more money to armies and navies than they do to education or the arts.

JAMES PLATT, Platt's Essays

History is a bath of blood.

WILLIAM JAMES, The Moral Equivalent of War

History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.

JULIAN BARNES, The Sense of an Ending

Just as the human memory is not a passive recorder but a tool in the construction of the self, so history has never been a simple record of the past, but a means of shaping peoples.

ARTHUR C. CLARKE, The Light of Other Days

History gets written by the winners.

CASSANDRA CLARE, City of Lost Souls

A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.

ROBERT A. HEINLEIN, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

No generation can escape history.

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, commencement address at Texas A&M University, May 12, 1989

The tapestry of history is woven of many threads.


History, like God, is watching what we do.

BONO, remarks at National Prayer Breakfast, Feb. 2, 2006

The business of the historian is with the truth of things, but he is too much under temptation to make his history interesting, to be always able to reject a fine story.

CHRISTIAN NESTELL BOVEE, Intuitions and Summaries of Thought

Because the acts or events of true history have not that magnitude which satisfieth the mind of man, poesy feigneth acts and events greater and more heroical.

FRANCIS BACON, The Advancement of Learning

History is in a manner a sacred thing, so far as it contains truth; for where truth is, the supreme Father of it may also be said to be, at least, inasmuch as concerns truth.


Is the only lesson of history to be that mankind is unteachable?

WINSTON CHURCHILL, speech at Zurich University, Sep. 19, 1946

The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.

OSCAR WILDE, The Critic as Artist

The vividness and force with which we trace the motion of history depends on the degree to which we look beyond persons and fix our gaze on things.

LORD ACTON, letter to Mary Gladstone, March 15, 1880

History — the product, not the raw material — is a bottle with a label. For many years now, the emphasis of historical discussion has been laid upon the label (its iconography, its target-group of customers) and upon the interesting problems of manufacturing bottle-glass. The contents, on the other hand, are tasted in a knowing, perfunctory way and then spat out again. Only amateurs swallow them.


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