The reason history is by turns gripping, boring and threatening is that it is a play in which the characters make up their lines as they go along.
—Dero A. Saunders (1914–2002) American Journalist, Scholar
History needs distance, perspective. Facts and events which are too well attested cease, in some sort, to be malleable.
—Joseph Joubert (1754–1824) French Writer, Moralist
History, by appraising. ..[the students] of the past, will enable them to judge of the future.
—Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) American Head of State, Lawyer
A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.
—Edmund Burke (1729–97) British Philosopher, Statesman
History is but a kind of Newgate calendar, a register of the crimes and miseries that man has inflicted on his fellowman.
—Washington Irving (1783–1859) American Essayist, Biographer, Historian
History, is made up of the bad actions of extraordinary men and woman. All the most noted destroyers and deceivers of our species, all the founders of arbitrary governments and false religions have been extraordinary people; and nine tenths of the calamities that have befallen the human race had no other origin than the union of high intelligence with low desires.
—Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay (1800–59) English Historian, Essayist, Philanthropist
History must be written of, by and for the survivors.
History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again.
—Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007) American Novelist, Short Story Writer
History, insofar as it accustoms human beings to comprehend the whole of the past and to hasten forward with its conclusions into the far future, conceals the boundaries of birth and death, which enclose the life of the human being so narrowly and oppressively, and with a kind of optical illusion, expands his short existence into endless space, leading the individual imperceptibly over into humanity.
—Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805) German Poet, Dramatist
What experience and history teach is this — that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.
—Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) German Philosopher
History books that contain no lies are extremely dull.
—Anatole France (1844–1924) French Novelist
History keeps her secrets longer than most of us. But she has one secret that I will reveal to you tonight in the greatest confidence. Sometimes there are no winners at all. And sometimes nobody needs to lose.
—John le Carre (1931–2020) English Spy Thriller Novelist
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 (1561–1626) English Philosopher
The impartiality of history is not that of the mirror, which merely reflects objects, but of the judge who sees, listens, and decides.
—Alphonse de Lamartine (1790–1869) French Poet, Politician, Historian
History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.
—Winston Churchill (1874–1965) British Head of State, Political leader, Historian, Journalist, Author
History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.
—Mark Twain (1835–1910) American Humorist
I am ashamed to see what a shallow village tale our so-called history is.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) American Philosopher
History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme a lot
—Mark Twain (1835–1910) American Humorist
History is the myth, the true myth, of man’s fall made manifest in time.
—Henry Miller (1891–1980) American Novelist
History is the glass through which we may behold, with ancestral eyes, not only the various deeds of past ages and the old accidents that attend them, but also discern the different humors of men.
—Jeremiah Brown Howell
One cannot be a good historian of the outward, visible world without giving some thought to the hidden, private life of ordinary people; and on the other hand one cannot be a good historian of this inner life without taking into account outward events where these are relevant. They are two orders of fact which reflect each other, which are always linked and which sometimes provoke each other.
—Victor Hugo (1802–85) French Novelist
It is better to allow our lives to speak for us than our words. God did not bear the cross only two thousand years ago. He bears it today, and he dies and is resurrected from day to day. It would be a poor comfort to the world if it had to depend on a historical God who died two thousand years ago. Do not, then, preach the God of history, but show him as he lives today through you.
—Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869–1948) Indian Hindu Political leader
Once you uncover the history of this pattern and trace its roots, you will see that your reaction in the present moment is really a reaction from the past, a shadow character’s attempt to protect you from reexperiencing an old emotional wound, which instead sabotages you in the present.
—Connie Zweig (b.1949) American Minister, Columnist, Psychotherapist
And having wisdom with each studious year, in meditation dwelt, with learning wrought, and shaped his weapon with an edge severe, sapping a solemn creed with solemn sneer.
—Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron) (1788–1824) English Romantic Poet
The subject of history is the life of peoples and of humanity. To catch and pin down in words—that is, to describe directly the life, not only of humanity, but even of a single people, appears to be impossible.
—Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) Russian Novelist
It’s my belief that history is a wheel. ‘Inconstancy is my very essence,’ says the wheel. Rise up on my spokes if you like but don’t complain when you’re cast back down into the depths. Good time pass away, but then so do the bad. Mutability is our tragedy, but it’s also our hope. The worst of time, like the best, are always passing away.
—Boethius (c.480–524 CE) Roman Statesman, Philosopher
What has been will be again. What has been done will be done again…
—The Holy Bible Scripture in the Christian Faith
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
—Maya Angelou (1928–2014) American Poet
Few can be induced to labor exclusively for posterity; and none will do it enthusiastically. Posterity has done nothing for us; and theorize on it as we may, practically we shall do very little for it, unless we are made to think we are at the same time doing something for ourselves.
—Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) American Head of State
History is the sum total of the things that could have been avoided.
—Konrad Adenauer (1876–1967) German Statesman