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.

photo of author Jennifer Stone with quote

History repeats herself.

--Jennifer Stone
white stone woman sculpture

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
photo of author Will Durant with quote

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
photo of author H. G. Wells with quote

Human history in essence is the history of ideas.

--H. G. Wells
photo of author Edward Gibbon with quote

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
selective focus photo of brown and blue hourglass on stones

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.

photo of author Winston Churchill with quote

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
photo of author Zadie Smith with quote

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

--Zadie Smith
butterfly perching on leaves

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

--Napoléon Bonaparte
photo of author Annie Besant with quote

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
photo of author Emily Blunt with quote

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

--Emily Blunt
fine trees waving

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
photo of author Golda Meir with quote

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

--Golda Meir
photo of author Jeff Bezos with quote

Work hard, have fun and make history.

--Jeff Bezos
photo of author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe with quote

Patriotism ruins history.

--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
photo of author George Santayana with quote

We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.

--George Santayana
photo of author Fidel Castro with quote

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

--Fidel Castro
photo of author Oscar Wilde with quote

History is merely gossip.

--Oscar Wilde
photo of author Leon Trotsky with quote

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
photo of author Henry Ford with quote

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
photo of author Oscar Wilde with quote

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

--Oscar Wilde
silhouette of mountain

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

--Kurt Vonnegut
photo of author David McCullough with quote

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

--David McCullough

photo of author Clifford Geertz with quote

Meaning is socially, historically, and rhetorically constructed.

--Clifford Geertz
Arizona landscape

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

--Avery Brooks
photo of author Voltaire with quote

History should be written as philosophy.

photo of author Victor Hugo with quote

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

--Victor Hugo
girl leaning on wall during daytime

The history of liberty is a history of resistance.

--Woodrow Wilson
brown wooden hanging bridge surrounded by green trees during daytime

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

--Thomas Friedman
shallow focus photography of brown parquet flooring

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

--Thomas Jefferson
photo of author Stéphane Hessel with quote

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

--Stéphane Hessel
photo of author Sonia Johnson with quote

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
painting of man walking down a road holding umbrella

History passes the final judgment.

--Sidney Poitier
person holding red and beige twin bell analog alarm clock

History is a relay of revolutions.

--Saul Alinsky
photo of author Rudyard Kipling with quote

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

--Rudyard Kipling
brown mountains under blue sky

History is the transformation of tumultuous conquerors into silent footnotes.

--Paul Eldridge

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.

photo of author Percy Bysshe Shelley with quote

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

--Percy Bysshe Shelley
blue sky with stars during night time

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

--Peace Pilgrim
blue wooden door opened

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

--Max Eastman
red paint strokes wallpaper

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

--Max Lerner
photo of author Maya Angelou with quote

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

--Maya Angelou
white-and-pink flowers

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

--Martin Scorsese
photo of author Martin Luther King Jr.  with quote

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.
photo of author Martin Luther King Jr.  with quote

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

--Martin Luther King Jr.
photo of author Marcus Garvey with quote

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

--Marcus Garvey
photo of author Mahatma Gandhi with quote

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

--Mahatma Gandhi
photo of author Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel with quote

The historian is a prophet looking backward.

--Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel
photo of author Karl Marx with quote

Revolutions are the locomotives of history.

--Karl Marx
photo of author Karl Marx with quote

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.

feet in sand

I came, I saw, I conquered.

--Julius Caesar
photo of author John W. Gardner with quote

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

--John W. Gardner

Longer Version:

History never looks like history when you are living through it. It always looks confusing and messy, and it always feels uncomfortable.

photo of author James Baldwin with quote

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

--James Baldwin
photo of author James Baldwin with quote

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
photo of author Henry Ford with quote

History is more or less bunk.

--Henry Ford
photo of author H. L. Mencken with quote

Historian: an unsuccessful novelist.

--H. L. Mencken
photo of author H. G. Wells with quote

History is a race between education and catastrophe.

--H. G. Wells
photo of author G. K. Chesterton with quote

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

--G. K. Chesterton
calm body of water and mountain

Every historian discloses a new horizon.

--George Sand
man in black shirt on pink background

Memoirs are the backstairs of history.

--George Meredith
silhouette photography of trees and sky

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

--George Bernard Shaw
photo of author George Bernard Shaw with quote

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

--George Bernard Shaw
photo of author George Bernard Shaw with quote

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

--George Bernard Shaw
purple petaled flower

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

--Ernest Dimnet
white and black satellite dish on brown field during night time

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

--E. L. Doctorow
photo of author Elon Musk with quote

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

--Elon Musk
photo of author Edward R. Murrow with quote

Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.

--Edward R. Murrow
photo of author E. M. Forster with quote

History develops, art stands still.

--E. M. Forster
black and gray floral textile

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

--Douglas Hurd
grayscale photography of elephant

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

--Dean Kamen
photo of author David McCullough with quote

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
photo of author Daisaku Ikeda with quote

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

--Daisaku Ikeda

photo of author C. Wright Mills with quote

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

--C. Wright Mills
photo of author Gautama Buddha with quote

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

--Gautama Buddha
photo of author B. C. Forbes with quote

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
photo of author Alexis Herman with quote

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
photo of author Arthur Henderson with quote

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

--Arthur Henderson
purple petaled flower

Few characters in history are indispensable.

--Albert Bushnell Hart
black semi automatic pistol on gray surface

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

--Anatole Broyard
white brick wall

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

--Adrienne Rich
photo of author Aristotle with quote

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

photo of author Anatole France with quote

History books that contain no lies are extremely dull.

--Anatole France
photo of author Ambrose Bierce with quote

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

--Ambrose Bierce
photo of author Alexis de Tocqueville with quote

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

--Alexis de Tocqueville
photo of author Aldous Huxley with quote

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
clear drinking glass with beer on black table

Our history is not our destiny.

--Alan Cohen
photo of author Auguste Comte with quote

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

--Auguste Comte
photo of author Anselm Kiefer with quote

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

--Anselm Kiefer
person holding brown sand close-up photography

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

--Alexander Smith
crack in wall

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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