Quotations about:
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It is always easy as well as agreeable for the inferior ranks of mankind to claim merit from the contempt of that pomp and pleasure which fortune has placed beyond their reach. The virtue of the primitive Christians, like that of the first Romans, was very frequently guarded by poverty and ignorance.

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) English historian
The Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 2, ch. 15 (1781)
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Added on 21-May-24 | Last updated 14-May-24
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History ain’t what it is; it’s what some Writer wanted it to be.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist
“Letter of a Self-Made Diplomat,” Saturday Evening Post (1931-03-22)
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Collected in More Letters of a Self-Made Diplomat (1928).
 
Added on 7-May-24 | Last updated 7-May-24
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HARRIS: I call it performance art, but my friend Ariel calls it wasting time. History will decide.

Steve Martin (b. 1945) American comedian, actor, writer, producer, musician
L. A. Story (1991)
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Added on 30-Apr-24 | Last updated 30-Apr-24
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History is a distillation of Rumour.

Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) Scottish essayist and historian
The French Revolution: A History, Part 1, Book 7, ch. 5 (1.7.5) (1837)
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The original is actually embedded in this sentence:

Remarkable [Usher] Maillard, if fame were not an accident, and History a distillation of Rumour, how remarkable wert thou!
 
Added on 19-Apr-24 | Last updated 19-Apr-24
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Everything has been said, and we have come too late, now that men have been living and thinking for seven thousand years and more.
 
[Tout est dit, et l’on vient trop tard depuis plus de sept mille ans qu’il y a des hommes qui pensent.]

Jean de La Bruyere
Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 1 “Of Works of the Mind [Des Ouvrages de l’Esprit],” § 1 (1.1) (1688) [tr. Stewart (1970)]
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Opening line of the book. La Bruyère's timeline is that of medieval scholars who calculated, from the Bible, that the age of the world to be only several thousand years old.

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

We are come too late, after above seven thousand years that there have been men, and men have thought, to say any thing which has not been said already.
[Bullord ed. (1696)]

After above seven thousand Years, that there have been Men, and Men have thought, we come too late to say any thing which has not been said already.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

We are come too late, by several thousand Years, to say any thing new in Morality.
[Browne ed. (1752)]

After above seven thousand years, during which there have been men who have thought, we come too late to say anything that has not been said already.
[tr. Van Laun (1885)]

 
Added on 2-Apr-24 | Last updated 2-Apr-24
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History is the only consolation left to the peoples, for it teaches them that their ancestors were as unhappy as themselves, or more unhappy.
 
[En effet, il ne reste guère, pour consoler les peuples, que de leur apprendre que leurs ancêtres ont été aussi malheureux, ou plus malheureux.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 8, ¶ 474 (1795) [tr. Mathers (1926)]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

In fact there is no longer any way of consoling the people except by teaching them that their forebears were as wretched as they are, or more so.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Indeed, if one is to console the peoples of the world there is little else one can do but teach them that their ancestors were just as wretched, or more so.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

In effect, there is nearly no way to console peoples except to tell them that their ancestors were as unfortunate or more unfortunate than they are.
[tr. Siniscalchi (1994), ¶ 473]

 
Added on 18-Mar-24 | Last updated 18-Mar-24
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Nearly all of history is only a string of horrors. If tyrants dismiss it while they are alive, it seems that their successors allow people to transmit to posterity the crimes of their predecessors, in order to offer diversion away from the horror that they inspire themselves.

[Presque toute l’Histoire n’est qu’une suite d’horreurs. Si les tyrans la détestent, tandis qu’ils vivent, il semble que leurs successeurs souffrent qu’on transmette à la postérité les crimes de leurs devanciers, pour faire diversion à l’horreur qu’ils inspirent eux-mêmes.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 8, ¶ 474 (1795) [tr. Siniscalchi (1994)]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Nearly all History is a procession of horrors; but, although tyrants hate History in their own lifetime, a general transmission of such crimes is not unpleasing to their descendants, for it distracts attention from their own.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

Almost the whole of history is nothing but a series of horrors. If tyrants detest it while they are alive, their successors seem willing to allow the crimes of their predecessors to be transmitted to posterity, to divert attention from the horror that they themselves inspire.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Almost the whole of history is nothing more than a series of horrors. If tyrants detest it while they are alive, it seems that their that their successors suffer that the crimes of their predecessors should be laid at the door of posterity, in order to divert attention from the horrors to which they themselves give rise.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

Almost all of history is a story of horror. If tyrants condemn it during their lifetime, their successors seem to allow the crimes of their predecessors to be passed on to posterity, thereby diverting attention from the horror they themselves inspire.
[tr. Parmée (2003)]

 
Added on 4-Mar-24 | Last updated 3-Mar-24
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Historical sense and poetic sense should not, in the end, be contradictory, for if poetry is the little myth we make, history is the big myth we live, and in our living, constantly remake.

robert penn warrren
Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989) American poet, novelist, literary critic
Brother to Dragons, Foreword (1953)
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Added on 5-Feb-24 | Last updated 5-Feb-24
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According to Oscar Wilde, all that experience teaches us is that history repeats itself, and that the sin we do once and with loathing we will do many times and with pleasure. But the neurotic knows that the sin he does once and with loathing he will do many times and with loathing.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Neurotic’s Notebook, ch. 8 (1963)
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See Wilde.
 
Added on 17-Jan-24 | Last updated 17-Jan-24
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You think when you wake up in the mornin yesterday dont count. But yesterday is all that does count. What else is there? Your life is made out of the days it’s made out of. Nothin else. You might think you could run away and change your name and I dont know what all. Start over. And then one mornin you wake up and look at the ceilin and guess who’s layin there?

Cormac McCarthy (1933-2023) American novelist, playwright, screenwriter
No Country for Old Men (2005)
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Added on 10-Jan-24 | Last updated 10-Jan-24
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The question is then how can we decide what anybody in the ancient world said. We can’t. We wish we could. It would be nice if we could. You would like to think that because you can go to the store and buy an edition of Plato that you are actually reading Plato, but the problem is that we just do not have the kind of evidence that we need in order to establish what ancient authors actually wrote. In some cases, we have all these data, and sometimes we have just one manuscript. Sometimes we have a manuscript that was written two-thousand years later, and that’s it! So, as much as we would like to be able to say we know what ancient authors actually wrote, we often just do not know.

Bart Ehrman
Bart D. Ehrman (b. 1955) American Biblical scholar, author
“The Textual Reliability of the New Testament: A Dialogue between Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace,” Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum in Faith and Culture (2008-04-04/05)
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Reprinted in Robert Stewart, ed., The Reliability of the New Testament (2011).
 
Added on 29-Nov-23 | Last updated 29-Nov-23
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Books are embalmed minds; they make the great of other days our present teachers. Through books we look, as through “a glass darkly,” upon those vast multitudes whose bodies have passed to dust, and form the earth we tread upon, and through them we, in our turn, shall be made known to coming time.

Christian Nestell Bovee (1820-1904) American epigrammatist, writer, publisher
Intuitions and Summaries of Thought, Vol. 1, “Books” (1862)
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Added on 18-Nov-23 | Last updated 18-Nov-23
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Study the historian before you begin to study the facts. This is, after all, not very abstruse. It is what is already done by the intelligent undergraduate who, when recommended to read a work by that great scholar Jones of St. Jude’s, goes round to a friend at St. Jude’s to ask what sort of chap Jones is, and what bees he has in his bonnet. When you read a work of history, always listen out for the buzzing. If you can detect none, either you are tone deaf or your historian is a dull dog. The facts are really not at all like fish on the fishmonger’s slab. They are like fish swimming about in a vast and sometimes inaccessible ocean; and what the historian catches will depend partly on chance, but mainly on what part of the ocean he chooses to fish in and what tackle he chooses to use – these two factors being, of course, determined by the kind of fish he wants to catch. By and large, the historian will get the kind of facts he wants. History means interpretation.

E. H. Carr (1892-1982) British historian, journalist, international relations theorist [Edward Hallett "Ted" Carr]
What Is History?, ch. 1 (1961)
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Added on 13-Nov-23 | Last updated 13-Nov-23
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Physical scourges and the calamities of human nature rendered society necessary. Society has added to natural misfortunes. The drawbacks of society have made government necessary, and government adds to society’s misfortunes. There is the history of human nature in a nutshell.

[Les fléaux physiques, et les calamités de la nature humaine ont rendu la Société nécessaire. La Société a ajouté aux malheurs de la Nature. Les inconvéniens de la Société ont amené la nécessité du gouvernement, et le gouvernement ajoute aux malheurs de la Société. Voilà l’histoire de la nature humaine.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 1, ¶ 67 (1795) [tr. Hutchinson (1902)]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

The physical plagues and misfortunes of human nature have made Society necessary. Society has added to the ills of Nature. The difficulties of Society have created the necessity for Government, and Government now adds to the evils of Society. There you have the history of man.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

Physical disasters and the calamities of human nature have rendered society necessary. To the miseries of nature, society has added its own. The difficulties of society have evolved the necessity for government, and government has added to the miseries of society. This is the history of human nature.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

Physical disasters and the calamities of human nature made society necessary. Society's ordeals were then added to those of nature. The drawbacks of society led to the need for government, whereupon the evils of government were added to those of society. Such is the history of human nature.
[tr. Dusinberre (1992)]

Physical plagues and the calamities of nature made society necessary. Society added to the misfortunes of nature. The inconveniences of society brought the necessity of government, and the government added to the misfortunes of society. This is the history of human nature.
[tr. Sinicalchi]

 
Added on 30-Oct-23 | Last updated 30-Oct-23
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Hey all!! Just found out I’m woke … all this time I just thought I was good at history.

Jon Stewart (b. 1962) American satirist, comedian, and television host. [b. Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz]
Twitter (2022-03-30)
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Added on 24-Oct-23 | Last updated 24-Oct-23
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Dissatisfaction with the world in which we live and determination to realize one that shall be better, are the prevailing characteristics of the modern spirit.

Lowes Dickinson
G. Lowes Dickinson (1862-1932) British political scientist and philosopher [Goldsworthy "Goldie" Lowes Dickinson]
The Greek View of Life, ch. 5 “Conclusion” (1911)
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Added on 12-Oct-23 | Last updated 12-Oct-23
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Historians may be dogmatists, I know, though not so often now as when history was dogma. At least you will perhaps agree that even a smattering of history and especially of letters will go far to dull the edges of uncompromising conviction. No doubt one may quote history to support any cause, as the devil quotes scripture; but modern history is not a very satisfactory side-arm in political polemics; it grows less and less so.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“Sources of Tolerance,” speech, University of Pennsylvania Law School (1930-06)
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Collected in The Spirit of Liberty (1953).
 
Added on 12-Oct-23 | Last updated 12-Oct-23
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In the main, I think religion has done a great deal of harm. Largely by sanctifying conservatism and adhesion to ancient habits, and still more by sanctifying intolerance and hatred. The amount of intolerance that has gone into religion, especially in Europe, is quite terrible.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Interview by Woodrow Wyatt, BBC TV (1959)

Collected in Bertrand Russell's BBC Interviews (1959) [UK] and Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind (1960) [US]. Reprinted (abridged) in The Humanist (1982-11/12), and in Russell Society News, #37 (1983-02).
 
Added on 4-Oct-23 | Last updated 4-Oct-23
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History unravels gently, like an old sweater. It has been patched and darned many times, reknitted to suit different people, shoved in a box under the sink of censorship to be cut up for the dusters of propaganda, yet it always — eventually — manages to spring back into its old familiar shape. History has a habit of changing the people who think they are changing it. History always has a few tricks up its frayed sleeve.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
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Added on 19-Aug-23 | Last updated 27-Oct-23
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History, like perspective, needs distance. Facts that are too abundantly attested cease, in some degree, to be malleable.

[L’histoire a besoin de lointain, comme la perspective. Les faits et les événements trop attestés ont, en quelque sorte, cessé d’être malléables.]

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist, philosopher, essayist, poet
Pensées [Thoughts], ch. 23 “Des Qualités de l’Écrivain et des Compositions Littéraires [On Writers and Literature],” ¶ 119 (1850 ed.) [tr. Lyttelton (1899), ch. 22, ¶ 52]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

History needs distance, perspective. Facts and events which are too well attested, cease, in some sort, to be malleable.
[tr. Attwell (1896), ¶ 356]

History, like perspective, has need of distance.
[tr. Auster (1983), 1801]

 
Added on 7-Aug-23 | Last updated 7-Aug-23
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Were a historian like Tacitus to write a history of the best of our kings, giving an exact account of all the tyrannical acts and abuses of authority, the majority of which lie buried in the profoundest obscurity, there would be few reigns which would not inspire us with the same horror as that of Tiberius.

[Si un historien, tel que Tacite, eût écrit l’histoire de nos meilleurs rois, en faisant un relevé exact de tous les actes tyranniques, de tous les abus d’autorité, dont la plupart sont ensevelis dans l’obscurité la plus profonde, il y a peu de règnes qui ne nous inspirassent la même horreur que celui de Tibère.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 8, ¶ 482 (1795) [tr. Hutchinson (1902)]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

If such an historian as Tacitus had written the chronicle of our nobler kings, making an exact statement of all those tyrannical actions and abuses of authority which are now for the most part buried in deep darkness, few of their reigns would inspire less horror than that of Tiberius.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

If a historian such as Tacitus had written the histories of our best kings, with precise accounts of their tyrannical actions, and all their abuses of authority, most of which have been buried in the deepest obscurity, there are few reigns that would not arouse in us the same horror as that of Tiberius.
[tr. Merwin (1969)]

If a chronicler such as Tacitus had written the history of our best kings, preparing an exact amount of all tyrannical acts, of all the abuses of authority, of which the majority are concealed by fathomless obscurity, there would be few reigns which would [not?] inspire us with the same horror as that of Tiberius.
[tr. Pearson (1973)]

 
Added on 31-Jul-23 | Last updated 31-Jul-23
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History. We want to find moral lessons in it, but its only lessons are of politics, military art, etc.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist, philosopher, essayist, poet
Pensées [Thoughts], 1806 [tr. Auster (1983)]
    (Source)

I have been unable to find an analog in other translations, or in the original French.
 
Added on 18-Jul-23 | Last updated 18-Jul-23
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I conceive that there is nothing which gives a man more pause before taking as absolute what his feelings welcome, and his mind deems plausible, than even the flicker of recollection that something of the sort has been tried before, felt before, disputed before, and for some reason or other has now quite gone into Limbo.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“Sources of Tolerance,” speech, University of Pennsylvania Law School (1930-06)
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Added on 13-Jul-23 | Last updated 13-Jul-23
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Love is more pleasant than marriage for the same reason that novels are more amusing than history.

[L’amour plaît plus que le mariage, par la raison que les romans sont plus amusants que l’histoire.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 6, ¶ 391 (1795) [tr. Merwin (1969)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Love gives greater pleasure than marriage for the same reason that romances are more amusing than history.
[tr. Hutchinson (1902), "The Cynic's Breviary"]

Love is a pleasanter thing than marriage, for the same reason that the Romans are more amusing than History.
[tr. Mathers (1926)]

Love is more pleasant than marriage for the same reason that novels are more pleasant than history.
[Source]

 
Added on 3-Jul-23 | Last updated 3-Jul-23
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History may be used to support any conclusion, according to the emphasis of our conscious or unconscious principle of selection.

Lowes Dickinson
G. Lowes Dickinson (1862-1932) British political scientist and philosopher [Goldsworthy "Goldie" Lowes Dickinson]
Religion: A Criticism and a Forecast, ch. 1 “Ecclesiasticism” (1906)
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Added on 12-Jun-23 | Last updated 12-Jun-23
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Since I do not admit that a person without bias exists, I think the best that can be done with a large-scale history is to admit one’s bias and for dissatisfied readers to look for other writers to express an opposite bias. Which bias is nearer to the truth must be left to posterity.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Autobiography, ch. 13 (1968)
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To my mind, a man without a bias cannot write interesting history — if, indeed, such a man exists. I regard it as mere humbug to pretend to a lack of bias.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Autobiography, ch. 13 (1968)
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Added on 23-May-23 | Last updated 23-May-23
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I don’t think about whether people will remember me or not. I’ve been an okay person. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve taught people a thing or two. That’s what’s important. Sooner or later the public will forget you, the memory of you will fade. What’s important are the individuals you’ve influenced along the way.

Julia Child
Julia Child (1912-2004) American chef and writer
“What I’ve Learned: Julia Child,” interview by Mike Sager, Esquire (2001-06)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Brendan Vaughan, Esquire: The Meaning of Life (2004)
 
Added on 23-Mar-23 | Last updated 3-Aug-23
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Unfortunately, our own colonial history also provided ample reasons for people to be afraid to vest too much power in the national government. There had been bills of attainder here; women had been convicted and sentenced to death as “witches”; Quakers, Baptists, and various Protestant sects had been persecuted from time to time. Roger Williams left Massachusetts to breathe the free air of new Rhode Island. Catholics were barred from holding office in many places. Test oaths were required in some of the colonies to bar any but “Christians” from holding office. In New England Quakers suffered death for their faith. Baptists were sent to jail in Virginia for preaching, which caused Madison, while a very young man, to deplore what he called that “diabolical hell-conceived principle of persecution.”

Hugo Black (1886-1971) American politician and jurist, US Supreme Court Justice (1937-71)
James Madison Lecture, NYU School of Law (1960-02-17)
    (Source)

The inaugural Madison lecture. Reprinted as "The Bill of Rights," NYU Law Review, Vol. 35 (Apr 1960). The Madison reference is in a letter to William Bradford (24 Jan 1774).
 
Added on 9-Mar-23 | Last updated 4-May-23
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For the world is not to be narrowed till it will go into the understanding (which has been done hitherto), but the understanding to be expanded and opened till it can take in the image of the world, as it is in fact.

[Neque enim arctandus est mundus ad angustias intellectus (quod adhue factum est), sed expandendus intellectus et laxandus ad mundi imaginem recipiendam, qualis invenitur.]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
The Great Instauration, “Parsceve ad Historiam,” “Aphorisms on the Composition of the Primary History,” #4 (1620)
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Added on 30-Nov-22 | Last updated 30-Nov-22
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The truth is often painful and disturbing. Hence if you stick to unalloyed reality, few people will follow you. An American presidential candidate who tells the American public the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about American history has a 100 percent guarantee of losing the elections. The same goes for candidates in all other countries. How many Israelis, Italians or Indians can stomach the unblemished truth about their nations? An uncompromising adherence to the truth is an admirable spiritual practice, but it is not a winning political strategy.

Yuval Noah Harari
Yuval Noah Harari (b. 1976) Israeli public intellectual, historian, academic, writer [יובל נח הררי]
“Why Fiction Trumps Truth,” New York Times (24 May 2019)
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Added on 17-Nov-22 | Last updated 14-Nov-22
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It is supposed to be true that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. I don’t believe knowing can save us. What is constant in history is greed and foolishness and a love of blood, and this is a thing that even God — who knows all that can be known — seems powerless to change.

Cormac McCarthy (1933-2023) American novelist, playwright, screenwriter
All the Pretty Horses, ch. 4 (1992)
    (Source)

See Santayana.
 
Added on 15-Nov-22 | Last updated 14-Nov-22
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Many clever men like you have trusted to civilization. Many clever Babylonians, many clever Egyptians, many clever men at the end of Rome. Can you tell me, in a world that is flagrant with the failures of civilisation, what there is particularly immortal about yours?

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
The Napoleon of Notting Hill, Book 1, ch. 2 (1904)
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Added on 2-Nov-22 | Last updated 2-Nov-22
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There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.

[Es ist niemals ein Dokument der Kultur, ohne zugleich ein solches der Barbarei zu sein.]

Walter Benjamin
Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) German Jewish philosopher, cultural critic, essayist.
“Theses on the Philosophy of History [On the Concept of History; Über den Begriff der Geschichte]”, Thesis 7 (1940) [tr. Zohn (1973)]
    (Source)

(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

There has never been a document of culture, which is not simultaneously one of barbarism.
[tr. Redmond (2001)]

 
Added on 26-Oct-22 | Last updated 26-Oct-22
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If you forget the victims
          of yesterday’s sorrow
you could become
          a victim of tomorrow.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933-2017) Russian poet, writer, film director, academic [Евге́ний Евтуше́нко, Evgenij Evtušenko]
“Fuku,” Almost at the End (1987) [tr. Bouis]
    (Source)

First printed, in Russian, in Novyi mir, No. 9 (1985). In "Yevtushenko: A Soviet Poet Turns to Movie Making," New York Times (2 Feb 1986), Yevtushenko translates it himself as:

He who forgets the victims of yesterday, may become the victim of tomorrow.
 
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Dear America: You are waking up as Germany once did, to the awareness that 1/3 of your people would kill another 1/3, while 1/3 watches.

Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog (b. 1942) German film director, screenwriter, author, actor
(Spurious)

Though frequently showing up in social media attributed to Herzog, this was first published by the @wernertwertzog Twitter parody account (23 Aug 2017). The account is operated by William Pannapacker, American literature professor at Hope College, Holland, Michigan.

More information about this quotation:
 
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When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something. Our children and their children will ask us, “What did you do? What did you say?” For some, this vote may be hard. But we have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.

John Lewis
John Lewis (1940-2020) American politician and civil rights leader
Speech, House of Representatives (18 Dec 2019)
    (Source)

During the House vote to impeach Donald Trump.
 
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History, we can confidently assert, is useful in the sense that art and music, poetry and flowers, religion and philosophy are useful. Without it — as with these — life would be poorer and meaner; without it we should be denied some of those intellectual and moral experiences which give meaning and richness to life. Surely it is no accident that the study of history has been the solace of many of the noblest minds of every generation.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
The Nature and Study of History, ch. 5 (1965)
    (Source)
 
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For a people to be without history, or to be ignorant of its history, is as for a man to be without memory — condemned forever to make the same discoveries that have been made in the past, invent the same techniques, wrestle with the same problems, commit the same errors; and condemned, too, to forfeit the rich pleasures of reflection.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
The Nature and Study of History, ch. 1 (1965)
    (Source)
 
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Perhaps the most useful lesson the student of history can learn is to avoid oversimplification, and to accept the notion of multiple causation or to resign himself to the fact that as yet we do not know enough to explain the causes of things. To yearn for a single, and usually simple, explanation of the chaotic materials of the past, to search for a single thread in the most tangled of all skeins, is a sign of immaturity.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
The Nature and the Study of History, ch. 5 (1965)
    (Source)
 
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If a quick glance back over world history shows us anything, it shows us that war was one of our most universal joys from our earliest beginnings, savored at every possible opportunity and even some quite incomprehensible ones, like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, whomever he may have been.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
“War,” Wasn’t the Grass Greener? (1999)
    (Source)

First appeared in Smithsonian (Jun 1992).
 
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It is typical for fascist politicians to represent a country’s actual history in conspiratorial terms, as a narrative concocted by liberal elites and cosmopolitans to victimize the people of the true “nation.”

Jason Stanley (b. 1969) American philosopher, epistemologist, academic
How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, ch. 1 (2018)
    (Source)
 
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History is a jangle of accidents, blunders, surprises and absurdities, and so is our knowledge of it, but if we are to report it at all we must impose some order upon it.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
The Nature and the Study of History, ch. 5 (1965)
    (Source)
 
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Too many wars are fought almost as if by rote. Too many wars are fought out of sloganry, out of battle hymns, out of aged, musty appeals to patriotism that went out with knighthood and moats. Love your country because it is eminently worthy of your affection. Respect it because it deserves your respect. Be loyal to it because it cannot survive without your loyalty. But do not accept the shedding of blood as a natural function or a prescribed way of history, even if history points this up by its repetition. That men die for causes does not necessarily sanctify that cause. And that men are maimed and torn to pieces every fifteen and twenty years does not immortalize or deify the act of war.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Commencement Address, Binghamton Central High School, Binghamton, New York (28 Jan 1968)
    (Source)
 
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This was unwise, but if autocrats always acted wisely they would not furnish history with moral lessons.

Tuchman - If autocrats always acted wisely they would not furnish history with moral lessons - wist.info quote

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
A Distant Mirror, ch. 21 “The Fiction Cracks” (1978)
    (Source)

On young King Richard II's giving substantial offices and lands to his friend and mentor, the Earl of Oxford, in so doing making an enemy of the Duke of Gloucester.
 
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Memory, as we all know, is fitful and phantasmagoric. History is organized memory, and the organization is all-important.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
The Nature and the Study of History, ch. 1 (1965)
    (Source)
 
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To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man’s character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours. Judged by the standards of one century, the noblest characters of an earlier one lose much of their luster; judged by the standards of today, there is probably no illustrious man of four or five centuries ago whose character could meet the test at all points.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Joan of Arc, “Translator’s Preface” (1860)
    (Source)
 
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All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes — all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
The Twilight Zone, 3×09 “Deaths-Head Revisited,” Epilogue (10 Nov 1961)
 
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We should not forget that our tradition is one of protest and revolt, and it is stultifying to celebrate the rebels of the past — Jefferson and Paine, Emerson and Thoreau — while we silence the rebels of the present.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Who Is Loyal to America?” Harper’s Magazine #1168 (Sep 1947)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954).
 
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Even here
Worth wins her due, and there are tears to flow,
And human hearts to feel for human woe.

[Sunt hic etiam sua praemia laudi,
Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.]

Virgil the Poet
Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 1, l. 461ff (1.461-462) (29-19 BC) [tr. Taylor (1907), st. 61, l. 543ff]
    (Source)

Aeneas, on seeing murals of the Trojan Wars in Carthage. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Lo! Priam here, reward here vertue finds;
Troy teares, and humane sufferings pittying minds.
[tr. Ogilby (1649)]

Ev'n the mute walls relate the warrior's fame,
And Trojan griefs the Tyrians' pity claim.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Even here praiseworthy deeds meet with due reward: here are tears for misfortunes, and the breasts are touched with human woes.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Aye, praise waits on worth
E'en in this corner of the earth;
E'en here the tear of pity springs,
And hearts are touched by human things.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

Worthy deeds e'en here are praised.
And mortal sufferings move their thoughts and tears.
[tr. Cranch (1872), l. 601ff]

Here too is the meed of honour, here mortal estate touches the soul to tears.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

And even here belike deed hath its own reward.
Lo here are tears for piteous things that touch men's hearts anigh.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

Virtue's wage is given --
O even here! Here also there be tears
for what men bear, and mortal creatures feel
each other's sorrow.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Here, too, virtue has its due rewards; here, too, there are tears for misfortune and mortal sorrows touch the heart.
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

Look! even here there are rewards for praise,
There are tears for things, and what men suffer touches
The human heart.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

Here too we find virtue somehow rewarded.
Tears in the nature of things, hearts touched by human transience.
[tr. Day Lewis (1952)]

Here, too, the honorable finds its due
and there are tears for passing things; here, too,
things mortal touch the mind.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 654ff]

Even so far away
Great valor has due honor; they weep here
For how the world goes, and our life that passes
Touches their hearts.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), l. 627ff]

Here too there is just reward for merit, there are tears for suffering and men's hearts are touched by what man has to bear.
[tr. West (1990)]

Here too virtue has its rewards, here too
there are tears for events, and mortal things touch the heart.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

Here, too, honor matters;
Here are the tears of the ages, and minds touched
By human suffering.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

Even here, merit will have its true reward ...
even here, the world is a world of tears
and the burdens of mortality touch the heart.
[tr. Fagles (2006)]

Here too, glory has its rewards; the world weeps, and mortal matters move the heart.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

 
Added on 26-Jan-22 | Last updated 21-Jun-23
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The average man will bristle if you say his father was dishonest, but he will brag a little if he discovers that his great-grandfather was a pirate.

No picture available
Bernard J. "Bern" Williams (1913-2004) American columnist radio host, aphorist
(Attributed)
 
Added on 27-Dec-21 | Last updated 27-Dec-21
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This is what the prophets discovered. History is a nightmare. There are more scandals, more acts of corruption, than are dreamed of in philosophy. It would be blasphemous to believe that what we witness is the end of God’s creation. It is an act of evil to accept the state of evil as either inevitable or final. Others may be satisfied with improvement, the prophets insist upon redemption. The way man acts is a disgrace, and it must not go on forever.

Abraham Joshua Heschel
Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
The Prophets, Vol. 1 (1962)
 
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There really are broad patterns in history, and the search for them is as fascinating as it is productive.

Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond (b. 1937) American geographer, historian, ornithologist, author
Guns, Germs and Steel, Introduction (1997)
    (Source)
 
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Representing the voices of all those whose existence has shaped and formed the world in which we live provides an essential protection against the fascist myth.

Jason Stanley (b. 1969) American philosopher, epistemologist, academic
How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, ch. 4 (2018)
    (Source)
 
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History never repeats itself, but the Kaleidoscopic combinations of the pictured present often seem to be constructed of the broken fragments of antique legends.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Gilded Age: A Tale of To-Day, ch. 47 (1874) [with Charles Dudley Warner]
    (Source)

Probably the source of the Twain misquote "History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes" (which does not appear prior to 1970).

More discussion of this quotation: History Does Not Repeat Itself, But It Rhymes – Quote Investigator
 
Added on 29-Nov-21 | Last updated 29-Nov-21
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