History can inform the present and help us shape the future. History can mean what happened in the past, or the story about what happened in the past, and these two don’t necessarily agree. Historian’s goals were often to glorify a person or nation, more than to tell objectively what happened. History textbooks have sometimes been bound by political rules about not telling embarrassing stories about the past. Every historian has cultural influences and assumptions, even if they attempt to be inclusive and objective. These quotations on history come from a variety of perspectives, moods, and authors.
History does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.
But history—a moving, organic network of causally related events—is hard to outwit or outflank. History embodies a logic and momentum of its own with resistances, rewards, and penalties. History soon outwitted the Whigs and left them in its dustbin.
The antidote to feel-good history is not feel-bad history but honest and inclusive history.
It is always easy to make all philosophy point one particular moral and all history adorn one particular tale; but I may be forgiven the reminder that the best speculative philosophy sets forth the solidarity of the human race; that the highest moralists have taught that without the advance and improvement of the whole, no man can hope for any lasting improvement in his own moral or material individual condition; and that the subjective necessity for Social Settlements is therefore identical with that necessity, which urges us on toward social and individual salvation.
History, 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.
A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the sound of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.
Reclamation is hard work. Finding the value in your group’s characteristics means always having to confront the darkness in those characteristics. For example, it is acceptable, and productive, to think of America as a great nation. It has many great characteristics, from the freedom it grants its citizens to the cultural contributions it has fostered and rewarded. But by unearthing America’s good qualities, you will also find its destructive qualities. The way it has interfered internationally and created death and misery for countless citizens of other nations, its history of genocide and slavery, and so on. It is possible to know America’s destructive power and still think it is a great nation. But some prefer not to look at all, so as to avoid the cognitive dissonance.
Patriotism ruins history.
Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world. Stand in your own dooryard and you have eight thousand miles of solid ground beneath you, and all the sidereal splendors overhead.
Whoever doesn’t know the past must have little understanding of the present and no vision of the future.
It is not ‘history’ which uses men as a means of achieving — as if it were an individual person — its own ends. History is nothing but the activity of men in pursuit of their ends.
I am passionately interested in understanding how my country works. And if you want to know about this thing called the United States of America you have to know about the Civil War.
I believe order is better than chaos, creation better than destruction. I prefer gentleness to violence, forgiveness to vendetta. On the whole I think that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and I am sure that human sympathy is more valuable than ideology. I believe that in spite of the recent triumphs of science, men haven’t changed much in the last two thousand years; and in consequence we must try to learn from history.
We must begin to tell black women’s stories because, without them, we cannot tell the story of black men, white men, white women, or anyone else in this country. The story of black women is critical because those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.
1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them.
Well behaved women rarely make history.
Human beings are too important to be treated as mere symptoms of the past. They have a value which is independent of any temporal process ─ which is eternal, and must be felt for its own sake.
Discretion is not the better part of biography.
In pure literature, the writers of the eighteenth century achieved, indeed, many triumphs; but their great, their peculiar, triumphs were in the domain of thought.
Ignorance is the first requisite of the historian — ignorance, which simplifies and clarifies, which selects and omits, with a placid perfection unattainable by the highest art.
The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual – for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost.
The beauty of the past belongs to the past.
Never doubt that you can change history. You already have.
It states, History should be regarded as a means for understanding the past and solving the challenges of the future. It also suggests that this celebration of the end of slavery is an important and enriching part of the history and heritage of the United States.
Many public-school children seem to know only two dates — 1492 and the 4th of July; and as a rule they don’t know what happened on either occasion.
Peace by persuasion has a pleasant sound, but I think we should not be able to work it. We should have to tame the human race first, and history seems to show that that cannot be done.
War is a malignant disease, an idiocy, a prison, and the pain it causes is beyond telling or meaning; but war was our condition and our history, the place we had to live in.
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.
The fall of Rome seemed unthinkable to people at the time but inevitable to historians reflecting upon it with the benefit of context.
[I]f we revert to history, we shall find that the women who have distinguished themselves have neither been the most beautiful nor the most gentle of their sex.
Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history are taught from one book? Just U.S. history.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
I would encourage us all, African Americans, Asians, Latinos, Whites, Native Americans to study history. I long for the time when all the human history is taught as one history. I am stronger because you are stronger. I am weaker if you are weak. So we are more alike than we are unlike.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
History is the depository of great actions, the witness of what is past, the example and instructor of the present, and monitor to the future.
The poet may say or sing, not as things were, but as they ought to have been; but the historian must pen them, not as they ought to have been, but as they really were.
Skepticism is a virtue in history as well as in philosophy.
There is no history worthy of attention but that of a free people; the history of a people subjected to despotism is only a collection of anecdotes.
Love is more pleasant than marriage for the same reason that novels are more amusing than history.
History is a vast early-warning system.
I am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed. Sojourner Truth was a bridge. Harriet Tubman was a bridge. Ida B. Wells was a bridge. Madame C. J. Walker was a bridge. Fannie Lou Hamer was a bridge.
Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.
Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.
But myth is something else than an explanation of the world, of history, and of destiny.
The radical, committed to human liberation, does not become the prisoner of a ‘circle of certainty’ within which reality is also imprisoned. On the contrary, the more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can better transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side.
Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future.
One little person, giving all of her time to peace, makes news. Many people, giving some of their time, can make history.
The revolutionary idea that defines the boundary between modern times and the past is the mastery of risk: the notion that the future is more than the whim of the gods and that men and women are not passive before nature. Until human beings discovered a way across that boundary, the future was a mirror of the past or the murky domain of oracles and soothsayers who held a monopoly over knowledge of anticipated events.
Perhaps the rediscovery of our humanity, and the potential of the human spirit which we have read about in legends of older civilizations, or in accounts of solitary mystics, or in tales of science fiction writers— perhaps this will constitute the true revolution of the future. The new frontier lies not beyond the planets but within each one of us.