Common section

THOUGHTS ABOUT HISTORY (FROM PEOPLE SMARTER THAN ME)

In William Dean Howells’s book My Mark Twain, he recounts a conversation with Twain about history. Howells said, “I wonder why we hate the past so.” Twain responded, “It’s so damned humiliating.”

“The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.”—Mark Twain

“That generations of historians have resorted to what might be called ‘proof by haphazard quotation’ does not make the procedure valid or reliable; it only makes it traditional.”—Lee Benson, social historian

“History is a myth that men agree to believe.”—Napoleon Bonaparte

“History is the distillation of rumour.”—Thomas Carlyle, nineteenth-century Scottish writer

“I don’t believe the truth will ever be known, and I have a great contempt for history.”—George Meade, American philosopher

“Myth, memory, history—these are three alternative ways to capture and account for an elusive past, each with its own persuasive claim.”—Warren I. Susman, historian

“History in general is a collection of crimes, follies, and misfortunes among which we have now and then met with a few virtues, and some happy times.”—Voltaire

“[Some historians hold that history] is just one damned thing after another.”—Arnold Toynbee, twentieth-century historian

“History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.”—George Santayana, philosopher

“History: An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.”—Ambrose Bierce, writer

“For what is history, but … huge libel on human nature, to which we industriously add page after page, volume after volume, as if we were holding up a monument to the honor, rather than the infamy of our species.”—Washington Irving “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”—L. P. Hartley, writer

“History: gossip well told.”—Elbert Hubbard, writer

“God cannot alter the past, though historians can.”—Samuel Butler, nineteenth-century writer

“Most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice.”—Will and Ariel Durant, writers

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!