stack of six brown hardbound booksPhoto Credit: Chris Lawton

Welcome to our collection of quotes about history. We hope you enjoy pondering them! If you do, please share widely.

History repeats herself.

--Jennifer Stone

All our experience with history should teach us, when we look back, how badly human wisdom is betrayed when it relies on itself.

--Martin Luther

One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.

--Will Durant

Human history in essence is the history of ideas.

--H.G. Wells

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know no way of judging of the future but by the past.

--Edward Gibbon

Study the past if you would define the future.


Longer Version:

Study the past if you would define the future. I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there. Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.

The whole history of the world is summed up in the fact that, when nations are strong, they are not always just, and when they wish to be just, they are no longer strong.

--Winston Churchill

Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.

--Zadie Smith

Skepticism is a virtue in history as well as in philosophy.

--Napoléon Bonaparte

A myth is far truer than a history, for a history only gives a story of the shadows, whereas a myth gives a story of the substances that cast the shadows.

--Annie Besant

Watch the History Channel if you want it literal and historically perfect.

--Emily Blunt

On human stupidity: It is one of the most powerful forces that shape history.

--Yuval Noah Harari

If it's a good idea, go ahead and do it. It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.

--Grace Murray Hopper

The public history of modern art is the story of conventional people not knowing what they are dealing with.

--Golda Meir

Work hard, have fun and make history.

--Jeff Bezos

Patriotism ruins history.

--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.

--George Santayana

Condemn me, it does not matter, history will absolve me.

--Fidel Castro

The historic ascent of humanity, taken as a whole, may be summarized as a succession of victories of consciousness over blind forces -- in nature, in society, in man himself.

--Leon Trotsky

We don't want 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

Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.

--Oscar Wilde

History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again.

--Kurt Vonnegut

History is who we are and why we are the way we are.

--David McCullough

The sanctity of our battlefields, monuments, and veterans institutions is of utmost importance to preserve military history and pay respect to those who fought.

--Henry Waxman

Meaning is socially, historically, and rhetorically constructed.

--Clifford Geertz

What I am is a thinking, feeling human being compelled by history.

--Avery Brooks

History should be written as philosophy.


What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past.

--Victor Hugo

The history of liberty is a history of resistance.

--Woodrow Wilson

Optimists are usually wrong. But all the great change in history, positive change, was done by optimists.

--Thomas Friedman

History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is.

--Thomas Jefferson

History can bring luck: this is what we can call optimism.

--Stephane Hessel

We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.

--Sonia Johnson

History passes the final judgment.

--Sidney Poitier

History is a relay of revolutions.

--Saul Alinsky

If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.

--Rudyard Kipling

History is the transformation of tumultuous conquerors into silent footnotes.

--Paul Eldridge

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.


Fear not for the future, weep not for the past.

--Percy Bysshe Shelley

One little person, giving all of her time to peace, makes news. Many people, giving some of their time, can make history.

--Peace Pilgrim

A poet in history is divine, but a poet in the next room is a joke.

--Max Eastman

The so-called lessons of history are for the most part the rationalizations of the victors. History is written by the survivors.

--Max Lerner

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.

--Maya Angelou

I love studying Ancient History and seeing how empires rise and fall, sowing the seeds of their own destruction.

--Martin Scorsese

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

--Martin Luther King Jr.

We are not makers of history. We are made by history.

--Martin Luther King Jr.

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.

--Marcus Garvey

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.

--Mahatma Gandhi

The historian is a prophet looking backward.

--Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Revolutions are the locomotives of history.

--Karl Marx

The writer may very well serve a movement of history as its mouthpiece, but he cannot of course create it.

--Karl Marx

The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles.

--Karl Marx

Longer Version:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guildmaster and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, that each time ended, either in the revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

History never looks like history when you are living through it.

--John W. Gardner

People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.

--James Baldwin

I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all.

--James Baldwin

History is more or less bunk.

--Henry Ford

Historian: an unsuccessful novelist.

--H.L. Mencken

History is a race between education and catastrophe.

--H.G. Wells

People who make history know nothing about history. You can see that in the sort of history they make.

--G. K. Chesterton

Every historian discloses a new horizon.

--George Sand

Memoirs are the backstairs of history.

--George Meredith

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.

--George Bernard Shaw

We learn from experience that men never learn anything from experience.

--George Bernard Shaw

If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.

--George Bernard Shaw

The history of the past interests us only in so far as it illuminates the history of the present.

--Ernest Dimnet

The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like.

--E.L. Doctorow

When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.

--Elon Musk

Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.

--Edward R. Murrow

History develops, art stands still.

--E.M. Forster

We must admit that history is enjoyable to a large extent because it enables us to pass judgement on the past.

--Douglas Hurd

If history is any indication, all truths will eventually turn out to be false.

--Dean Kamen

The pull, the attraction of history, is in our human nature. What makes us tick? Why do we do what we do? How much is luck the deciding factor?

--David McCullough

To communicate the truths of history is an act of hope for the future.

--Daisaku Ikeda

I believe that we must maintain pride in the knowledge that the actions we take, based on our own decisions and choices as individuals, link directly to the magnificent challenge of transforming human history.

--Daisaku Ikeda

Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.

--C. Wright Mills

I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.

--Gautama Buddha

History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.

--B.C. Forbes

Unlike any other time in our history, we have to know that staying in school and getting an education is the most important thing you can do.

--Alexis Herman

Whatever we do or fail to do will influence the course of history.

--Arthur Henderson

Few characters in history are indispensable.

--Albert Bushnell Hart

We are all tourists in history, and irony is what we win in wars.

--Anatole Broyard

False history gets made all day, any day, the truth of the new is never on the news.

--Adrienne Rich

Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.


History books that contain no lies are extremely dull.

--Anatole France

History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.

--Ambrose Bierce

History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.

--Alexis de Tocqueville

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

Our history is not our destiny.

--Alan Cohen

To understand a science, it is necessary to know its history.

--Auguste Comte

History is formed by the people, those who have power and those without power. Each one of us makes history.

--Anselm Kiefer

I go into my library and all history unrolls before me.

--Alexander Smith

Human blunders usually do more to shape history than human wickedness.

--A.J.P. Taylor
stack of six brown hardbound books

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