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Truth is the only merit that gives dignity and worth to history.

LORD ACTON, The History of Freedom in Antiquity

What dependence can I have on the alleged events of ancient history, when I find such difficulty in ascertaining the truth regarding a matter that has taken place only a few minutes ago, and almost in my own presence!

SIR WALTER RALEIGH, attributed, Testimony: Its Posture in the Scientific World (Chambers, 1859)


LORD ACTON, postscript of letter to Mandell Creighton, Apr. 5, 1887

The inflexible integrity of the moral code is, to me, the secret of the authority, the dignity, the utility of History. If we may debase the currency for the sake of genius, or success, or rank, or reputation, we may debase it for the sake of a man’s influence, of his religion, of his party, of the good cause which prospers by his credit and suffers by his disgrace. Then History ceases to be a science, an arbiter of controversy, a guide of the Wanderer, the upholder of that moral standard which the powers of earth and religion itself tend constantly to depress. It serves where it ought to reign; and it serves the worst cause better than the purest.

LORD ACTON, letter to Mandell Creighton, Apr. 5, 1887

What is a great man who has made his mark upon history? Every time, if we think far enough, he is a man who has looked through the confusion of the moment and has seen the moral issue involved; he is a man who has refused to have his sense of justice distorted; he has listened to his conscience until conscience becomes a trumpet call to like-minded men, so that they gather about him, and together, with mutual purpose and mutual aid, they make a new period in history.

JANE ADDAMS, address to the Union League Club of Chicago, Feb. 23, 1903

History is the same thing over and over again.

WOODY ALLEN, interview, Der Spiegel, Jun. 20, 2005

I long for the time when all the human history is taught as one history, because it really is one history.

MAYA ANGELOU, Facebook post, Feb. 28, 2013

Poetry is written with tears, fiction with blood, and history with invisible ink.


On the breast of that huge Mississippi of falsehood called History, a foam-bell more or less is no consequence.

MATTHEW ARNOLD, "Literary Influence of Academies", Essays in Criticism, First Series

There are no happy endings in history, only crisis points that pass.

ISAAC ASIMOV, The Gods Themselves

The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history.

MAO ZEDONG, "On Coalition Government", Apr. 24, 1945

Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research. And when you see that you've got problems, all you have to do is examine the historic method used all over the world by others who have problems similar to yours. And once you see how they got theirs straight, then you know how you can get yours straight.

MALCOLM X, Message to the Grass Roots, Nov. 10, 1963

All you have learned from history is old ways of making mistakes. There is nothing that history can tell you about what we must do tomorrow. Only what we must not do.

EDWIN H. LAND, address to Polaroid Corporation employees at Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, February 5, 1960

People are absolutely haunted by [history]. You can see it at the swap meets.

PAMELA LANSDEN, "It's Monterey, Jack", Los Angeles Times, April 7, 1997

Construed as a means instead of an end, history is the weapon with which we defend the future against the past.

LEWIS H. LAPHAM, Lapham's Quarterly, 2008

Sometimes ... history needs a push.

VLADIMIR LENIN, attributed, Seeds of Revolution: A Collection of Axioms, Passages and Proverbs

The history of the race is but that of the individual "writ large".

GEORGE HENRY LEWES, The Foundations of a Creed

History. It has always vaguely interested him, that sinister mulch of facts our little lives grow out of before joining the mulch themselves, the fragile brown rotting layers of previous deaths.

JOHN UPDIKE, Rabbit at Rest

Men are not the causers of history. History itself, by a pressure of events, causes men to resort to particular actions.

TANITH LEE, The Gods are Thirsty

He too, it seemed, had come to believe that he could somehow escape history. That it was possible, and even desirable, to live in a perpetual present.

CHRIS ABANI, The Secret History of Las Vegas

The inner reality of history is so unlike the back of the cards, and it takes so long to get at it, which does not prevent us from disbelieving what is current as history, but makes us wish to sift it, and dig through mud to solid foundations.

LORD ACTON, letter to Mary Gladstone, September 21, 1880

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