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Quotes about History

Inspirational Quotes about History

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“Memory is the scribe of the soul.”

– Aristotle


“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”

– Mahatma Gandhi


“Study the past if you would define the future.”

– Confucius


“If the whole of history is in one man, it is all to be explained from individual experience. There is a relation between the hours of our life and the centuries of time.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance & Other Essays (kp. 39)


“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

– George Orwell


“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”

― Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays


“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.”

– Albert Einstein


“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

– James Baldwin


“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”

― Michael Crichton


“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours”

– Alan Bennett, The History Boys: The Film


“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

– Warren Buffett, Statement of January 1991, as quoted in Of Permanent Value: The Story of Warren Buffett (2007) by Andrew Kilpatrick


“I found one day in school a boy of medium size ill-treating a smaller boy. I expostulated, but he replied: “The bigs hit me, so I hit the babies; that’s fair.” In these words he epitomized the history of the human race.”

– Bertrand Russell, as quoted in Education and the Social Order (1932)


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

– Oscar Wilde


“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist


“We cannot overstate our debt to the Past, but the moment has the supreme claim. The Past is for us; but the sole terms on which it can become ours are its subordination to the Present. Only an inventor knows how to borrow, and every man is or should be an inventor. We must not tamper with the organic motion of the soul.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


“History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.”

– Cicero, Pro Publio Sestio


“Whether we be Italians or Frenchmen, misery concerns us all. Ever since history has been written, ever since philosophy has meditated, misery has been the garment of the human race; the moment has at length arrived for tearing off that rag, and for replacing, upon the naked limbs of the Man-People, the sinister fragment of the past with the grand purple robe of the dawn.”

– Victor Hugo


“I construct my memories with my present. I am lost, abandoned in the present. I try in vain to rejoin the past: I cannot escape.”

– Jean Paul Sartre


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

– George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Vol


“Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.”

– Oscar Wilde, The Sould of Man Under Socalism


“They know it, but it is you who don’t— and they are counting on you not to know it. They are counting on you to go on, to work to the limit of the inhuman and to feed them while you last— and when you collapse, there will be another victim starting out and feeding them, while struggling to survive— and the span of each succeeding victim will be shorter, and while you’ll die to leave them a railroad, your last descendant-in-spirit will die to leave them a loaf of bread. This does not worry the looters of the moment. Their plan— like all the plans of all the royal looters of the past— is only that the loot shall last their lifetime . It has always lasted before, because in one generation they could not run out of victims.”

– Ayn Rand, Quotes from Atlas Shrugged

Inspirational Quotes about History

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“Cock-sure certainty is the source of much that is worst in our present world, and it is something of which the contemplation of history ought to cure us, not only or chiefly because there were wise men in the past, but because so much that was thought wisdom turned out to be folly – which suggests that much of our own supposed wisdom is no better. I do not mean to maintain that we should lapse into a lazy scepticism. We should hold our beliefs, and hold them strongly. Nothing great is achieved without passion, but underneath the passion there should always be that large impersonal survey which sets limits to actions that our passions inspire.”

Bertrand Russell about History, as quoted in History as an Art (1954)


“There is good evidence that the art of shooting with bows and arrows has not been handed down from any common progenitor of mankind, yet the stone arrow-heads, brought from the most distant parts of the world and manufactured at the most remote periods, are, as Nilsson has shewn, almost identical; and this fact can only be accounted for by the various races having similar inventive or mental powers.”

– Charles Robert Darwin, as quoted in The Descent of Man


“Every time a man is begotten and born, the clock of human life is wound up anew to repeat once more its same old tune that has already been played innumerable times, movement by movement and measure by measure, with insignificant variations.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer, as quoted in The World as Will and Representation


“The more extensive a man’s knowledge of what has been done, the greater will be his power of knowing what to do.”

– Benjamin Disraeli


“We are living in what the Greeks called the right time for a “metamorphosis of the gods,” i.e. of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science.”

-Carl Jung, The Undiscovered Self


“What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books.”

– Sigmund Freud, as quoted in Letter to Ernest Jones (1933), as quoted in The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993) by Robert Andrews


“Ordinarily, every body in society reminds us of somewhat else, or of some other person. Character, reality, reminds you of nothing else; it takes place of the whole creation. The man must be so much, that he must make all circumstances indifferent. Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design; — and posterity seem to follow his steps as a train of clients. A man Caesar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Empire. Christ is born, and millions of minds so grow and cleave to his genius, that he is confounded with virtue and the possible of man. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man … and all history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“The past alone is truly real: the present is but a painful, struggling birth into the immutable being of what is no longer. Only the dead exist fully. The lives of the living are fragmentary, doubtful, and subject to change; but the lives of the dead are complete, free from the sway of Time, the all but omnipotent lord of the world. Their failures and successes, their hopes and fears, their joys and pains, have become eternal—our efforts cannot now abate one jot of them. Sorrows long buried in the grave, tragedies of which only a fading memory remains, loves immortalized by Death’s hallowing touch these have a power, a magic, an untroubled calm, to which no present can attain. …On the banks of the river of Time, the sad procession of human generations is marching slowly to the grave; in the quiet country of the Past, the march is ended, the tired wanderers rest, and the weeping is hushed.”

Bertrand Russell, as quoted in On History (1904)


“These hints, dropped as it were from sleep and night, let us use in broad day. The student is to read history actively and not passively; to esteem his own life the text, and books the commentary. Thus compelled, the Muse of history will utter oracles, as never to those who do not respect themselves. I have no expectation that any man will read history aright, who thinks that what was done in a remote age, by men whose names have resounded far, has any deeper sense than what he is doing to-day.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series


“You, the sons of the pioneers, if you are true to your ancestry, must make your lives as worthy as they made theirs. They sought for true success, and therefore they did not seek ease. They knew that success comes only to those who lead the life of endeavor”

– Theodore Roosevelt


“They locked themselves in their laboratories, and tried to evolve, as gold had. And they found the Philosopher’s Stone, because they understood that when something evolves, everything around that thing evolves as well. “Others stumbled upon the stone by accident. They already had the gift, and their souls were readier for such things than the souls of others. But they don’t count. They’re quite rare. “And then there were the others, who were interested only in gold. They never found the secret. They forgot that lead, copper, and iron have their own Personal Legends to fulfill. And anyone who interferes with the Personal Legend of another thing never will discover his own.

The alchemist’s words echoed out like a curse.”

– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist 


“Once we were blobs in the sea, and then fishes, and then lizards and rats and then monkeys, and hundreds of things in between. This hand was once a fin, this hand once had claws! In my human mouth I have the pointy teeth of a wolf and the chisel teeth of a rabbit and the grinding teeth of a cow! Our blood is as salty as the sea we used to live in! When we’re frightened, the hair on our skin stands up, just like it did when we had fur. We are history! Everything we’ve ever been on the way to becoming us, we still are.

I’m made up of the memories of my parents and my grandparents, all my ancestors. They’re in the way I look, in the colour of my hair. And I’m made up of everyone I’ve ever met who’s changed the way I think”

– Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky


“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”

– J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye


“A thousand years is but an instant. There’s nothing new, nothing different. Same pattern, over and over. The same clouds, the same music, the same as I felt an hour or an eternity ago. There’s nothing here for me now, nothing at all. Now I remember, this happened to me before, this is why I left. You have begun to find your answers. Although it will seem difficult, the rewards will be great. Exercise your human mind as fully as possible, knowing that it is only an exercise. Build beautiful artifacts, solve problems, explore the secrets of the physical universe, savor the input from all the senses, feel the joy, and sorrow, the laughter, the empathy, compassion, and tuck these emotional memories in your travel bag. I remember where I came from, and how I became a human, why I hung around. And now, my final departure schedule: this way out, escaping velocity, not just eternity, but infinity…”

-Waking Life

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