Historical Voices on History

What is history?

“Some historians hold that history … is just one damned thing after another.”
Arnold Toynbee

History is not the accumulation of events of every kind which happened in the past. It is the science of human societies.
Fustel de Coulanges

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 Warren

History does not repeat itself. The historians repeat one another.
Max Beerbohm

Imagination plays too important a role in the writing of history, and what is imagination but the projection of the author’s personality.
Pieter Geyl

History is too much about wars; biography too much about great men.
Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own

It should be known that history is a discipline that has a great number of approaches.
Ibn Khaldun of Tunis

The past does not influence me; I influence it.
Willem De Kooning

The past does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.
Mark Twain

You must always know the past, for there is no real Was, there is only Is.
William Faulkner

The historian amputates reality.
Gaetano Salvemini

 If history is a collection of events which come to life for us because of what some actors did, some recorders recorded, and some previewers decided to retell, a clinician attempting to interpret an historical event must first of all get the facts straight.
Erik Erikson

History is not only a particular branch of knowledge, but a particular mode and method of knowledge in other branches.
Lord Acton

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
L. P. Hartley

History is, in its essentials, the science of change. It knows and it teaches that it is impossible to find two events that are ever exactly alike, because the conditions from which they spring are never identical.
Marc Bloch

Revisionism is a healthy historiographical process, and no one, not even revisionists, should be exempt from it.
John Lewis Gaddis

At the heart of good history is a naughty little secret: good storytelling.
Stephen Schiff

It takes three facts to make a truth.
Eugene Manlove Rhodes

There is no history, only histories.
Karl Popper

History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.
Robert Penn Warren