Cool quotes about history (or other likewise topics)

Continuing the discussion from Not Feminism 101:


It’s always good to start out with some Marx when ruminating on history:


Napoleon Bonaparte:

History is a set of lies agreed upon.

Michael Crichton:

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.

Karl Marx:

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.

George Orwell:

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

Chuck Pahlaniuk:

We’ll be remembered more for what we destroy than what we create.

Mark Twain:

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.


See also:

History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

James Joyce, Ulysses





To 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.

Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them




A people without history is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern of timeless moments. So, while the light fails on a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel; history is now and England.

Eliot, Little Gidding.

Edit - in case @mindysan33 reads this, I am not endorsing Eliot’s view of history. I understand what he means, how he experiences it, but my own view of history is entirely more mechanistic and sociological.


"The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest, but if it is judged worthy by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the understanding of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content."

"I’ve just jazzed things up a little"
Terence (Spike) Milligan

…if I remember it correctly, that’s how Milligan prefixes his personal account of WW2. I’m lazy, I can’t be bothered to get them off the top shelf to check. I have my books arranged shortest at the top, tallest at the bottom.


Where I’m from, people believe all sorts of things that aren’t true. We call it "history."
A man’s called a traitor, or liberator;
A rich man’s a thief, or philanthropist.
Is one a crusader, or ruthless invader?
It’s all in which label is able to persist.
There are previous few at ease
With moral ambiguities
And so we act as though they don’t exist

  • The Wizard, Wicked.

“History is written by the victors.”

– Everyone (I can’t find a definitive source.)



“The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.”
-William Gibson

(That might not seem to be a quote about history, but think about how many eras people – or even just one person – lives in.)


“The important thing to understand about American history, wrote Mr. Ibis, in his leather-bound journal, is that it is fictional, a charcoal-sketched simplicity for the children, or the easily bored.”
— Neil Gaiman

“Time travel, by its very nature, was invented in all periods of history simultaneously.”
— Douglas Adams

“Human History becomes more a race between education and catastrophe.”
— H. G. Wells


I saw a huge steam roller,
It blotted out the sun.
The people all lay down, lay down;
They did not try to run.
My love and I, we looked amazed
Upon the gory mystery.
“Lie down, lie down!” the people cried.
"The great machine is history!"
My love and I, we ran away,
The engine did not find us.
We ran up to a mountain top,
Left history far behind us.
Perhaps we should have stayed and died,
But somehow we don’t think so.
We went to see where history’d been,
And my, the dead did stink so.

― Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night


“History will be kind for me, for I intend to write it” - Churchill
"History will absolve me" - Castro