What We Have Learned

Sunday, March 20, 2011 – What We Have Learned

There’s an old saying about those who forget history. I don’t remember it, but it’s good. ~ Stephen Colbert

Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. ~ Edmund Burke

It is the soothing thing about history that it does repeat itself. ~ Gertrude Stein

I prefer the company of peasants because they have not been educated sufficiently to reason incorrectly. ~ Michel de Montaigne

People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history. ~ Dan Quayle

Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim. ~ Bertrand Russell

Thought: Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage. ~ Woody Allen

People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them. ~ James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

A history in which every particular incident may be true may on the whole be false. ~ Thomas Babington Macaulay

History was a trash bag of random coincidences torn open in a wind. Surely, Watt with his steam engine, Faraday with his electric motor, and Edison with his incandescent light bulb did not have it as their goal to contribute to a fuel shortage some day that would place their countries at the mercy of Arab oil. ~ Joseph Heller, Good as Gold

Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all: the conscientious historian will correct these defects. ~ Herodotus

Historians are gossips who tease the dead. ~ Voltaire

History is the sum total of the things that could have been avoided. ~ Konrad Adenauer

The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice. ~ Mark Twain

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

A lot of history is just dirty politics cleaned up for the consumption of children and other innocents. ~ Richard Reeves

Political history is far too criminal and pathological to be a fit subject of study for the young. Children should acquire their heroes and villains from fiction. ~ W. H. Auden

If an historian were to relate truthfully all the crimes, weaknesses and disorders of mankind, his readers would take his work for satire rather than for history. ~ Pierre Bayle, Historical and Critical Dictionary

Too many historical writers are the votaries of cults, which, by definition are dedicated to whitewashing warts and hanging halos. ~ Thomas A. Bailey

Histories are a kind of distilled newspapers. ~ Thomas Carlyle

People think too historically. They are always living half in a cemetery. ~ Aristide Briand

Sin writes histories, goodness is silent. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

History: An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools. ~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Every age has a keyhole to which its eye is pasted. ~ Mary McCarthy, On the Contrary

History is the transformation of tumultuous conquerors into silent footnotes. ~ Paul Eldridge, Maxims for a Modern Man

The Past lies upon the Present like a giant’s dead body. ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of Seven Gables

When a history book contains no lies it is always tedious. ~ Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard

There is no such thing as a neutral or purely objective historian. Without an opinion a historian would be simply a ticking clock, and unreadable besides. ~ Philip Howard

Isn’t it amazing the way the future succeeds in creating an appropriate past? ~ John Leonard

A boy who hears a lesson in history ended by the beauty of peace, and how Napoleon brought ruin upon the world and that he should be forever cursed, will not long have much confidence in his teacher. He wants to hear more about the fighting and less about the peace negotiations. ~ William Lee Howard

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

History does not unfold: it piles up. ~ Robert M. Adams

It was that there are no simple lessons in history, that it is human nature that repeats itself, not history. ~John Toland

History supplies little beyond a list of those who have accommodated themselves with the property of others. ~ Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary

Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river. ~ Will Durant

A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia. ~ David McCullough

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

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

The theologian may indulge the pleasing task of describing Religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings. ~ Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

History attempts to provide society with an artificial collective memory. ~ Mark M. Krug, History and the Social Sciences

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it. ~ Winston Churchill

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

History is the most dangerous product which the chemistry of the mind has concocted. Its properties are well known. It produces dreams and drunkenness. It fills people with false memories, exaggerates their reactions, exacerbates old grievances, torments them in their repose, and encourages either a delirium of grandeur or a delusion of persecution. It makes whole nations bitter, arrogant, insufferable and vainglorious. ~ Paul Valéry, Regards sur le Monde Actuel

Yeah, I read history. But it doesn’t make you nice. Hitler read history, too. ~ Joan Rivers

The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history. ~ Bertrand Russell

In our brief national history we have shot four of our presidents, worried five of them to death, impeached one and hounded another out of office. And when all else fails, we hold an election and assassinate their character. ~ P. J. O’Rourke

We have wasted History like a bunch of drunks shooting dice back in the men’s crapper of the local bar. ~ Charles Bukowski

This is my history; like all other histories, a narrative of misery. ~ Samuel Johnson

History… is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake. ~ James Joyce, Ulysses


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