There is nothing that solidifies and strengthens a nation like reading the nation's history, whether that history is recorded in books, or embodied in customs, institutions, and monuments.
Out of monuments, names, words, proverbs, traditions, private records and evidences, fragments of stories, passages of books, and the like, we do save and recover somewhat from the deluge of time.
Each generation gathers together the imperishable children of the past, and increases them by new sons of light, alike radiant with immortality.
It is when the hour of conflict is over, that history comes to a right understanding of the strife, and is ready to exclaim, "Lo, God is here, and we knew it not!"
An old courtier, with veracity, good sense, and a faithful memory, is an inestimable treasure; he is full of transactions and maxims; in him one may find the history of the age, enriched with a great many curious circumstances, which we never meet with in books.
Biography is the only true history.
History is the first distinct product of man's spiritual nature, his earliest expression of what can be called thought.
Grecian history is a poem; Latin history, a picture; modern history a chronicle.
Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to be always a child.—If no use is made of the labors of past ages, the world must remain always in the infancy of knowledge.
If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us!—But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind us.
The more we know of history, the less shall we esteem the subjects of it; and to despise our species is the price we must too often pay for our knowledge of it.
All history is but a romance, unless it is studied as an example.
What are all histories but God manifesting himself, shaking down and trampling under foot whatsoever he hath not planted.
Violent natures make history.—The instruments they use almost always kill.—Religion and philosophy have their vestments covered with innocent blood.
We find but few historians who have been diligent enough in their search for truth. It is their common method to take on trust what they distribute to the public; by which means, a falsehood, once received from a famed writer, becomes traditional to posterity.
Those who have employed the study of history, as they ought, for their instruction, for the regulation of their private manners, and the management of public affairs, must agree with me that it is the most pleasant school of wisdom.
Truth is very liable to be left-handed in history.
History is a voice forever sounding across the centuries the laws of right and wrong. Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral law is written on the tablets of eternity.
To be entirely just in our estimate of other ages is not only difficult, but is impossible. Even what is passing in our presence we see but through a glass darkly. In historical inquiries the most instructed thinkers have but a limited advantage over the most illiterate. Those who know the most approach least to agreement.
History maketh a young man to be old, without wrinkles or gray hairs, privileging him with the experience of age, without either the infirmities or inconveniences thereof.
History is but the unrolled scroll of prophecy.
History is little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.
The best thing which we derive from history is the enthusiasm that it raises in us.
History is the glass through which we may behold, with ancestral eyes, not only the various deeds of past ages and the old accidents that attend them, but also discern the different humors of men.
History is but a kind of Newgate calendar, a register of the crimes and miseries that man has inflicted on his fellowman.
There is no part of history so generally useful as that which relates to the progress of the human mind, the gradual improvement of reason, the successive advances of science, the vicissitudes of learning and ignorance, the extinction and resuscitation of arts, and the revolutions of the intellectual world.—If accounts of battles and invasions are peculiarly the business of princes, the useful and elegant arts are not to be neglected, and those who have kingdoms to govern have understandings to cultivate.
The present state of things is the consequence of the past; and it is natural to inquire as to the sources of the good we enjoy or the evils we suffer. If we act oniy for ourselves, to neglect the study of history is not prudent; if intrusted with the care of others, it is not just.
We must consider how very little history there is; I mean real, authentic history.—That certain kings reigned, and certain battles were fought, we can depend on as true; but all the coloring, all the philosophy of history is conjecture.
History needs distance, perspective. Facts and events which are too well attested cease, in some sort, to be malleable.
History is but the development and revelation of providence.
History is neither more nor less than biography on a large scale.
Providence conceals itself in the details of human affairs, but becomes unveiled in the generalities of history.
The impartiality of history is not that of the mirror, which merely reflects objects, but of the judge who sees, listens, and decides.
God is in the facts of history as truly as he is in the march of the seasons, the revolutions of the planets, or the architecture of the worlds.
Every great writer is a writer of history, let him treat on what subjects he may.—He carries with him, for thousands of years, a portion of his times.
The history of the past is a mere puppet show.—A little man comes out and blows a little trumpet, and goes in again.—You look for something new, and lo! another little man comes out and blows another little trumpet, and goes in again.—And it is all over.
As in every human character so in every transaction there is a mixture of good and evil: a little exaggeration, a little suppression, a judicious use of epithets, a watchful and searching skepticism with respect to the evidence on one side, a convenient credulity with respect to every report or tradition on the other, may easily make a saint of Laud, or a tyrant of Henry the Fourth.
History has its foreground and its background, and it is principally in the management of its perspective that one artist differs from another. Some events must be represented on a large scale, others diminished; the great majority will be lost in the dimness of the horizon, and a general idea of their joint effect will be given by a few slight touches.
He alone reads history aright, who, observing how powerfully circumstances influence the feelings and opinions of men, how often vices pass into virtues, and paradoxes into axioms, learns to distinguish what is accidental and transitory in human nature from what is essential and immutable.
The men who make history, have not time to write it.
What is history but a fable agreed upon?
What is public history but a register of the successes and disappointments, the vices, the follies and the quarrels of those who engage in contention for power.
We read history through our prejudices.
We may gather out of history a policy no less wise than eternal, by the comparison and application of other men's forepast miseries with our own like errors and ill deservings.
History is not, as it was once regarded, merely a liberal pursuit in which men found wholesome food for the imagination and sympathies; but now is a department of serious scientific investigation.—We study it in the hope of giving new precision, definiteness, and solidity to the principles of political science.
History makes us some amends for the shortness of life.
What are most of the histories of the world but lies?—Lies immortalized, and consigned over as a perpetual abuse and a flaw upon posterity.
This I hold to be the chief office of history, to rescue virtuous actions from the oblivion to which a want of records would consign them, and that men should feel a dread of being considered infamous in the opinions of posterity, from their depraved expressions and base actions.
Many historians take pleasure in putting into the mouths of princes what they have neither said nor ought to have said.
All history is a lie.
Historians give us the extraordinary events, and omit just what we want, the everyday life of each particular time and country.
History presents the pleasantest features of poetry and fiction—the majesty of the epic, the moving accidents of the drama, and the surprises and moral of the romance.