Monday, May 02, 2005

History Quotes

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" 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. The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down.  ~A. Whitney Brown, The Big Picture History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren't there.  ~George Santayana I don't know much about history, and I wouldn't give a nickel for all the history in the world.  History is more or less bunk.  It is a tradition.  We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history we make today.  ~Henry Ford A lot of guys have had a lot of fun joking about Henry Ford because he admitted one time that he didn't know history.  He don't know it, but history will know him.  He has made more history than his critics ever read.  ~Will Rogers The past is really almost as much a work of the imagination as the future.  ~Jessamyn West History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.  ~Alexis de Tocqeville, 1856 Whosoever, in writing a modern history, shall follow truth too near the heels, it may haply strike out his teeth.  ~Walter Raleigh, History of the World History in general is a collection of crimes, follies, and misfortunes among which we have now and then met with a few virtues, and some happy times.  ~Voltaire, L'Ingénu History... is, indeed, little more than the register of the 'crimes, follies, and misfortunes' of mankind.  But what experience and history teach is this - that peoples and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.  ~Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Philosophy of History, "Introduction," 1807 History balances the frustration of "how far we have to go" with the satisfaction of "how far we have come."  It teaches us tolerance for the human shortcomings and imperfections which are not uniquely of our generation, but of all time.  ~Lewis F. Powell, Jr. The dead hand has too long hampered the freedom of the living.  ~James Robertson The historian has before him a jigsaw puzzle from which many pieces have disappeared.  These gaps can be filled only by his imagination.  ~Gaetano Salvemini, Historian and Scientist History knows that it can wait for more evidence and review its older verdicts; it offers an endless series of courts of appeal, and is ever ready to reopen closed cases.  ~William Stubbs Skepticism is history's bedfellow.  ~Edgar Saltus History does not unfold:  it piles up.  ~Robert M. Adams, Bad Mouth The day before yesterday always has been a glamour day.  The present is sordid and prosaic.  Time colors history as it does a meerschaum pipe.  ~Vincent Starrett, Buried Caesars History is a pageant and not a philosophy.  ~Augustine Birrell, Obiter Dicta: The Muse of History Radical historians now the tell the story of Thanksgiving from the point of view of the turkey.  ~Mason Cooley History is nothing but a problem of mechanics applied to psychology.  ~Hippolyte Taine History:  the category of human phenomena which tends to catastrophe.  ~Jules Romains, Men of Good Will The public history of all countries, and all ages, is but a sort of mask, richly colored.  The interior working of the machinery must be foul.  ~John Quincy Adams History - that little sewer where man loves to wallow.  ~Francis Ponge History:  a collection of epitaphs.  ~Elbert Hubbard, The Roycroft Dictionary Unfortunately, it is also true that the age's interests often color the past with unhistoric hues.  ~Wendell H. Stephenson Every great writer is a writer of history, let him treat on almost any subject he may.  ~Walter Savage Landor, Imaginary Conversation: Diogenes and Plato [T]he historian must serve two masters, the past and the present.  ~Fritz Stern, The Varieties of History [History is] a damn dim candle over a damn dark abyss.  ~W. Stull Holt [W]hat mountains of dead ashes, wreck and burnt bones, does assiduous pedantry dig up from the past time and name it History.  ~Thomas Carlyle No one can really know the life of his own day, let alone that of times long past.  Always the historian sees as in a mirror darkly, the reds and the golds rendered drab by the shadows of time.  ~Earl R. Beck, On Teaching History in Colleges and Universities Man is an historical animal, with a deep sense of his own past; and if he cannot integrate the past by a history explicit and true, he will integrate it by a history implicit and false.  ~Geoffrey Barraclough, History in a Changing World The idea of history in any age, like the idea of property, or of progress, is an unstable compound; it is put together as needed, by historians or by philosophers, out of the irreconcilable opinions of men.  ~F. Smith Fussner, The Historical Revolution Even the most painstaking history is a bridge across an eternal mystery.  ~Bruce Catton, Prefaces to History Almost the whole of history is but a sequence of horrors.  ~Sébastien Roch Nicolas Chamfort, Maxims and Considerations One of the deepest impulses in man is the impulse to record, - to scratch a drawing on a tusk or keep a diary, to collect sagas and heap cairns.  This instinct as to the enduring value of the past is, one might say, the very basis of civilization.  ~John Jay Chapman, Memories and Milestones History is not the past, but a map of the past drawn from a particular point of view to be useful to the modern traveler.  ~Henry Glassie A history in which every particular incident may be true may on the whole be false.  ~Thomas Babington Macaulay History, that excitable and unreliable old lady.  ~Guy de Maupassant, Sur l'Eau Wars usually have the effect of speeding up the process of history.  ~Pieter Geyl, Debates With Historians [I]t was that there are no simple lessons in history, that it is human nature that repeats itself, not history.  ~John Toland [History] is fallible as every man is fallible.  But it is likewise trustworthy, as a man is trustworthy who has looked into himself and come to know how blended are dust and fire in the innermost recesses of the human heart.  ~Arthur Bestor There is nothing more dangerous than history used as a defense, or history used for preaching; history used as a tool is no longer history.  ~Marcel Trudel We are never completely contemporaneous with our present.  History advances in disguise; it appears on stage wearing a mask of the preceding scene, and we tend to lose the meaning of the play.  ~Régis Debray, Revolution in the Revolution? History is the open Bible:  we historians are not priests to expound it infallibly:  our function is to teach people to read it and to reflect upon it for themselves.  ~George Macaulay Trevelyan Delusion about history is a serious matter; it can gravely affect the history that is waiting to be made.  ~John Terraine History supplies little beyond a list of those who have accommodated themselves with the property of others.  ~Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary The real history does not get written, because it is not in people's brains but in their nerves and vitals.  ~Alfred North Whitehead, Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead Clio may be the most austere and chaste of the Muses, but she has been known to come down informally from Mount Helicon in a mood so raffish that there are those who claim to have seen her with her slip showing.  ~Willis Thornton, Fable, Fact and History And how fascinating history is - the long, variegated pageant of man's still continuing evolution of this strange planet, so much the most interesting of all the myriads of spinners through space.  ~George Macaulay Trevelyan, An Autobiography No modern idea has affected history more than the passion of nationalism.  ~Charles R. Poinsatte, Understanding History Through the American Experience A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia.  ~David McCullough The good historian is like the giant of the fairy tale.  He knows that wherever he catches the scent of human flesh, there his quarry lies.  ~Marc Bloch, The Historian's Craft The historian has been the hearth at which the soul of the country has been kept alive.  ~John Morley, Notes on Politics and History It has become too easy to see that the luckless men of the past lived by mistakes, even absurd beliefs, so we may well fail in a decent respect for them, and forget that historians of the future will point out that we too lived by myths.  ~Herbert J. Muller, Freedom in the Western World You don't change the course of history by turning the faces of portraits to the wall.  ~Jawaharlal Nehru The best portraits are perhaps those in which there is a slight mixture of caricature; and we are not certain that the best histories are not those in which a little of the exaggeration of fictitious narrative is judiciously employed.  Something is lost in accuracy; but much is gained in effect.  The fainter lines are neglected; but the great characteristic features are imprinted on the mind forever.  ~Thomas Babington Macaulay, Machiavelli History is the story of events, with praise or blame.  ~Cotton Mather If history were a photograph of the past it would be flat and uninspiring.  Happily, it is a painting; and, like all works of art, it fails of the highest truth unless imagination and ideas are mixed with the paints.  ~Allen Nevins A recorded past is no more than a bygone present composed of the footprints made by human beings actually going somewhere but not knowing (in any extended sense), and certainly not revealing to us, how, they came to be afoot on these particular journeys.  ~Michael Oakeshott, On History Historians are themselves products of history.  ~Paul K. Conkin and Roland N. Stromberg, Heritage and Challenge History is politics projected into the past.  ~M.N. Pokrovsky The tapestry of history that seems so full of tragedy when viewed from the front has countless comic scenes woven into its reverse side.  In truth, tragedy and comedy are the twin masks of history - its mass appeal.  ~José Ortega y Gasset, Historical Reason It is striking how history, when resting on the memory of men, always touches the bounds of mythology.  ~Leopold von Ranke, History of the Popes It is with nations as it is with individuals.  A book of history is a book of sermons.  ~Arthur Conan Doyle, Micah Clarke History portrays everything as if it could not have come otherwise.  History is on the side of what happened.  ~Elias Canetti, The Human Province In a certain sense all men are historians.  ~Thomas Carlyle, Essays: On History It is pleasant to be transferred from an office where one is afraid of a sergeant-major into an office where one can intimidate generals, and perhaps this is why history is so attractive to the more timid among us.  We can recover self-confidence by snubbing the dead.  ~E.M. Forster, Abinger Harvest The lesson of history is rarely learned by the actors themselves.  ~James A. Garfield The amazing thing since so many variables enter into historical judgments, is not that historians disagree but that they agree as often as they do.  ~Louis Gottschalk, Understanding History History is written by the winners.  ~Alex Haley [History is] that terrible mill in which sawdust rejoins sawdust.  ~Edith Sitwell History is the daughter of time.  ~Lucien Febvre, The Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century History paints the human heart.  ~Napoleon I Events in the past may roughly be divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not matter.  ~W.R. Inge, Assessments and Anticipations It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.  ~Henry James, Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne History is an argument without end.  ~Pieter Geyl This is my history; like all other histories, a narrative of mise


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