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Why Don't We Learn from History?
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Why Don't We Learn from History?

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  603 ratings  ·  51 reviews
"A must read for both the people & the leaders of ALL the dictatorial regimes around the world (democracies would also surely benefit). A book for all times to come. His understanding & explanation of where the real power lies is outstanding. What s breathtaking is how relevent his arguments are today & how strikingly similar the working of all governments turn out to be ( ...more
Hardcover, 68 pages
Published October 12th 1972 by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. (London) (first published 1944)
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Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed
I give it around 3.5 stars. This book is about why we don't learn from the history of war. Liddell argues that the history of war is the most important of all history and should be studied more in depth by universities. It is easy to see as the world would be very different if someone else had won or lost a war. I have to admit it's not an easy read, but what I did understand I liked a lot. I will definitely read it again and my rating will most likely go up when I do. Even though the book is de ...more
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thought
The first.... 85% of this book maybe, is worthy of five starts, the rest is rather.... odd. Nonetheless, I do recommend the first 85% to most most people, especially after the events of this year (2016). We need a refresher on what Hart set out to teach us in this book.
Even tho it's short as feck it does ramble on a bit towards the end.

Fantastic first half of the book though.
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wars have always been part of history that disinterested me most, but this book gives good points of why they are worth more attention. I've enjoyed the topics on loyalty, obedience and tradition of faking history in the military but some parts didn't hold my attention at all. Maybe because names of the generals and references to famous fights just don't ring the bell - due to my lack of education, probably.
I'm not sure if he gives a clear answer of "why don't we learn from history", but he clea
Simon Howard
Feb 02, 2021 rated it liked it
I was lucky enough to read this famous essay in an original 1944 edition.

It starts off well: Liddell Hart gives a lot of interesting theories for why we seem not to learn from history, with a central tenet being that we aren’t very good at truthfully recording events in the first place.

He then lost me for the second half of the essay by going into some detail about the Second World War and perceived problems with the Christian church, which I’m sure would be interesting to many people, but don
Tyler Tidwell
Apr 17, 2020 rated it liked it
The title is a little misleading. This short book is really just Hart editorializing on a wide array of subjects, the study and methodologies of history being just one of them. That being said, he writes well and has some interesting (though not overblown) opinions that have proved relatively prescient when one examines world events over the last 50 years. It’s not feasible to summarize the book due to its ranging nature, but here are a few of his more interesting points:

-Any honest, experienced
Abdelhamid K.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
"Truth is a spiral staircase. What looks true on one level may not be true on the next higher level..."

"...Ascending the spiral, it can be seen that individual security increases with the growth of society, that local security increases when linked to a wider organization, that national security increases when nationalism decreases and would become much greater if each nation's claim to sovereignty were merged in a super-national body."

Outstanding! Hard not to relate to the current world events.
Joshua Hunt
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
“It is strange how people assume that no training is needed in the pursuit of truth.” — p. 125


First book of its kind that I’ve read in my adult life. Just... fascinating. This fairly small read (126 pages in my 2019 Edition) was slow going and challenging at several parts given the varying subject matter, but worth the trip in the end. I feel better for it, like having just finished a solid long distance run.

Recommend to the discerning and experienced reader.

From page 93:
“Whoever habitual
Nov 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Picked this up based on a recommendation and was very pleasantly surprised. It's a book about history from the perspective of someone who was actually involved in both world wars. The author shares some remarkable insights into state craft and politics and is able to expand this practical view into philosophy. Very interesting book that is 'very readable'. ...more
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
An incisive look back from a guy who saw a lot and thought it might help to jot down a some notes that might help people in the future. Insightful and pithy on subjects as diverse as lunch, religion, and nonconformity, but follows a common thread in its intense interest in human nature - which is Hart's dismal answer to the question his title poses. He hopes his readers, at least, can learn. ...more
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And insightful little book about the lessons we often fail to learn from military and political history.

I feel the book made some unwarranted leaps (based on his personal views which, however much I agree with them, were largely unsupported by the text). In general, I thought he could've spent a bit more time on specific examples and especially on the 'what is to be done?' aspect, which gets scant treatment beyond the idea of a super-national body (like the UN). It could've been 150 pages or 20
Vladimir Boronenko
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed it, great stuff. An extremely thoughtful book, and very readable, neatly divided into short easy-to-digest chapters. The subject matter is "the art of war", the author being a historian of war. He took a practical part in historical events, and saw how history was made - as well as how it was falsified. Many remarks of his - on compulsion in world affairs, on democracy and dictatorship, on irregular warfare, for example - are quite relevant and timely now (written over 50 years ag ...more
Jon Nguyen
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: strategy
This was a decent read, though not exactly what I was expecting. It turns out that the title is more of a lamentation, rather than a question that the author makes any attempt at answering.

The first part of the book is about why it's important to learn from history, something that you probably will agree with if you're reading it in the first place. Most of the rest of the book talking about specific lessons from history, which are useful, and make it a worthwhile read.

Towards the end of the b
Matthew Kuhlman
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
A quick and interesting read from a well known historian of warfare and strategy. BH Liddell Hart makes a few points based on the idea that too often we ignore the lessons of history. If nation's were to stick to values, morals, and collective instead of individual interests, in theory, the world would get a long better. Liddell Hart doesn't bother to dispell tht conflict is entirely avoidable, but it could be more 'limited' in scale. Initially written in 1944, it remains relevant today. Will li ...more
This is mostly a discussion of military history, which isn’t particularly interesting to me, but the core philosophy of it, which basically boils down to please endeavor to be decent to each other and stand up for the truth rather than national and historical myths, is lovely. There are some digressions about the American Civil War that’s grossly leave out the question of race and the language is gendered in a way that is strange to a modern ear, but obviously it’s a relic of its time.
MacKenzie Green
I picked this book up because it was one of Ryan Holiday’s recommended reads for 2021, and I see why, it feels like it was written last week.
If you are overwhelmed by current events and trying to untangle familiar themes of the past from the now, then pick this book up.
To quote Polybius, “the most instructive, indeed the only method of learning to bear with dignity the vicissitudes of fortune, is to recall the catastrophes of others.”
Apr 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
- "Only fool would learn from his own experience" (instead of history)

- Even primary sources could be riddled with lies: ask if there's propaganda?

- History happens behind the scenes - what people hear from the news is mostly wrong, as closed door events would not be broadcasted

- History always rhymes. There's no way to eliminate suffering but by studying history one could diminish the harm
Apr 23, 2021 added it
Studying history provides us with a fountain of wisdom unattainable through mere personal experience. By studying the triumphs and mistakes of others in the past, we can learn how to avoid catastrophes in the future. While much of popular history is distorted by mythmaking and deceit, careful observation and analysis can help us see the truth. Lessons from the past can even help us prevent the worst of war and conflict. 
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Fascinating book. Mainly written in the aftermath of WW2, it offers an enlightening look at history and how wars have successively taught us nothing.

What's also striking is how pertinent a lot of the writer's observations are based on the current political climate.

Hard going at times, but I enjoyed it.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent look behind the dates and locations of history to motivating factors and root causes. An illustration of what the study of historical events is meant to bestow on the student, not a list of dates, places, and names but an understanding of why, and whether or not the outcome was worthy of pursuit.
Benson Okinyi Aseto
Eliminating and thought provoking

I liked the flow of information and the in-depth knowledge of the subject. Very thought provoking.
The writing is intricate and for most might be a challenge to take in.
This book requires general reading for any serious reader who would like to learn deeper meaning of historical dogma
Caleb Cable
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh boy, what a page turner. Full of insightful and simple wisdom to be gained in the study of history to be applied in one's life. Sir Hart saw much and put his observations to paper. Wholeheartedly agree except for his final reasoning of God's existence within the confines of logic.

110% recommend
Vince Mcleod
Apr 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant, concise study of the patterns of mistakes made by rulers in recent centuries. This book belongs alongside Machiavelli's Prince as an example of quality hard-nosed political realism. Liddell Hart demonstrates deep insight into both the human condition and the workings of political machines. ...more
Gemma Milne
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was a fascinating read - I wrote all over it as was having so many different ideas and thoughts as I read! It's so true that history always stays relevant. Only bit I didn't like was his bit about religion but you have to bear in mind when it was written. Highly recommend. ...more
Micah McCarty
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
Excellent and timely book. Crazy how things never really seen to change. The weird religious sermon at the end takes away from the overall point of the book and I don't understand the point of leaving it in. But otherwise a great read. ...more
Zhivko Kabaivanov
Apr 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Why Don't We Learn from History? (1944) is a meditation on the nature of history and on why so few heed its lessons.

First published near the end of World War Two, this thoughtful treatise contains many insights still relevant today.

May 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Mostly insightful stuff, looking forward to his other book on military strategy.
John Coe
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Profound perspective from a British historian who served in WW1 & wrote this in the 1960s. His question is relevant today, as we still wage war without reflecting on history's lessons. ...more
Martin Novak
hard language...try later
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The first section on the unreliability of the historical records was great. The rest was fine, but less relevant to applications outside of warfare than I'd been lead to expect. ...more
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Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart usually known before his knighthood as Captain B. H. Liddell Hart was an English soldier, military historian and leading inter-war theorist.

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