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Quotations about history

History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.

 - Ronald Reagan

Whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty's lamp guiding your steps and opportunity's arm steadying your way.

 - Ronald Reagan

Jacqueline Kennedy OnassisI saw myself in the mirror; my whole face spattered with blood and hair... I wiped it off with Kleenex... History! ... I thought, no one really wants me there. Then one second later I thought, why did I wash the blood off? I should have left it there, let them see what they've done... If I'd just had the blood and caked hair when they took the picture ... Then later I said to Bobby -- what's the line between history and drama? I should have kept the blood on.

 - Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Michael CrichtonIf 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

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

 - Aristotle

Marcus Tullius CiceroTo be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?

 - Marcus Tullius Cicero

Marcus Tullius CiceroFor books are more than books, they are the life, the very heart and core of ages past, the reason why men worked and died, the essence and quintessence of their lives.

 - Marcus Tullius Cicero

James BaldwinTo accept one's past -- one's history -- is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.

 - James Baldwin

Jane AustenHistory, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in.... I read it a little as a duty; but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars and pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all, it is very tiresome; and yet I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention.

 - Jane Austen

Edward AbbeyMy loyalties will not be bound by national borders, or confined in time by one nation's history, or limited in the spiritual dimension by one language and culture. I pledge my allegiance to the damned human race, and my everlasting love to the green hills of Earth, and my intimations of glory to the singing stars, to the very end of space and time.

 - Edward Abbey

John MuirNothing goes unrecorded. Every word of leaf and snowflake and particle of dew . . . as well as earthquake and avalanche, is written down in Nature's book.

 - John Muir

Richard FeynmanNo government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literary or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race.

 - Richard Feynman

Richard FeynmanLooking back at the worst times, it always seems that they were times in which there were people who believed with absolute faith and absolute dogmatism in something. And they were so serious in this matter that they insisted that the rest of the world agree with them. And then they would do things that were directly inconsistent with their own beliefs in order to maintain that what they said was true.

 - Richard Feynman

Oliver Wendell HolmesWhen I wanted to understand what is happening today, I try to decide what will happen tomorrow; I look back, a page of history is worth a volume of logic.

 - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Edmund BurkePeople will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.

 - Edmund Burke

Ralph Waldo EmersonAll history becomes subjective; in other words there is properly no history; only biography.

 - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Michel FoucaultAs the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.

 - Michel Foucault

Edward GibbonHistory . . . is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.

 - Edward Gibbon

In all that belongs to man you cannot find a greater wonder than memory. What a treasury of all things! What a record! What a journal of all! As if provident Nature, because she would have man circumspect, had furnished him with an account-book, to carry always with him. Yet it neither burdens nor takes up room.

 - Owen Feltham

AristotleThe difference between a historian and a poet is not that one writes in prose and the other in verse -- indeed the writings of Herodotus could be put into verse and yet would still be a kind of history, whether written in metre or not. The real difference is this, that one tells what happened and the other what might happen. For this reason poetry is something more scientific and serous than history, because poetry tends to give general truths while history gives particular facts.

 - Aristotle

Marcus Tullius CiceroThe causes of events are ever more interesting than the events themselves.

 - Marcus Tullius Cicero

AristotleBut the whole vital process of the Earth takes place so gradually and in periods of time which are so immense compared with the length of our life, that these changes are not observed, and before their course can be recorded from beginning to end whole nations perish and are destroyed.

 - Aristotle

Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting, and doing 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.

 - Will Durant

Jame MattisHistory is not a straitjacket, but I've never found a better guide for the way ahead than studying the histories.

 - Jame Mattis

Thomas CarlysleIn books lies the soul of the whole Past Time; the articulate audible voice of the Past, when the body and material substance of it has altogether vanished like a dream.

 - Thomas Carlysle

Thomas SowellHistory is what happened, not what we wish had happened or what a theory says should have happened. One of the reasons for the great value of history is that it allows us to check our current beliefs against hard facts from around the world and across the centuries. But history cannot be a reality check for today's fashionable visions when history is itself shaped by those visions. When that happens, we are sealing ourselves up in a closed world of assumptions.

 - Thomas Sowell

George OrwellI know it is the fashion to say that most of recorded history is lies anyway. I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased, but what is peculiar to our own age is the abandonment of the idea that history could be truthfully written.

 - George Orwell