Historians Quotes

Quotes tagged as "historians" Showing 1-30 of 78
Leo Tolstoy
“Historians are like deaf people who go on answering questions that no one has asked them.”
Leo Tolstoy

Hannah Arendt
“Caution in handling generally accepted opinions that claim to explain whole trends of history is especially important for the historian of modern times, because the last century has produced an abundance of ideologies that pretend to be keys to history but are actually nothing but desperate efforts to escape responsibility.”
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

Terry Pratchett
“Oh, my dear Vimes, history changes all the time. It is constantly being re-examined and re-evaluated, otherwise how would we be able to keep historians occupied? We can't possibly allow people with their sort of minds to walk around with time on their hands.”
Terry Pratchett, Jingo

Mark Twain
“Herodotus says, "Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all: the conscientious historian will correct these defects.”
Mark Twain

Oscar Wilde
“To give an accurate description of what has never occurred is not merely the proper occupation of the historian, but the inalienable privilege of any man of parts and culture.”
Oscar Wilde

B.R. Ambedkar
“A historian ought to be exact, sincere and impartial;
free from passion, unbiased by interest, fear, resentment or affection;
and faithful to the truth, which is the mother of history the preserver of great actions, the enemy of oblivion, the witness of the past, the director of the future.”
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Writings And Speeches: A Ready Reference Manual

Carl Lotus Becker
“All historical writing, even the most honest, is unconsciously subjective, since every age is bound, in spite of itself, to make the dead perform whatever tricks it finds necessary for its own peace of mind.”
Carl Lotus Becker, The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers

Alan Sokal
“Thus, by science I mean, first of all, a worldview giving primacy to reason and observation and a methodology aimed at acquiring accurate knowledge of the natural and social world. This methodology is characterized, above all else, by the critical spirit: namely, the commitment to the incessant testing of assertions through observations and/or experiments — the more stringent the tests, the better — and to revising or discarding those theories that fail the test. One corollary of the critical spirit is fallibilism: namely, the understanding that all our empirical knowledge is tentative, incomplete and open to revision in the light of new evidence or cogent new arguments (though, of course, the most well-established aspects of scientific knowledge are unlikely to be discarded entirely).

. . . I stress that my use of the term 'science' is not limited to the natural sciences, but includes investigations aimed at acquiring accurate knowledge of factual matters relating to any aspect of the world by using rational empirical methods analogous to those employed in the natural sciences. (Please note the limitation to questions of fact. I intentionally exclude from my purview questions of ethics, aesthetics, ultimate purpose, and so forth.) Thus, 'science' (as I use the term) is routinely practiced not only by physicists, chemists and biologists, but also by historians, detectives, plumbers and indeed all human beings in (some aspects of) our daily lives. (Of course, the fact that we all practice science from time to time does not mean that we all practice it equally well, or that we practice it equally well in all areas of our lives.)”
Alan Sokal

Herbert Butterfield
“The study of the past with one eye upon the present is the source of all sins and sophistries in history. It is the essence of what we mean by the word "unhistorical".”
Herbert Butterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History

Christopher Hitchens
“Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, historians have become both more accurate and more honest—fractionally more brave, one might say—about that 'other' cleansing of the regions and peoples that were ground to atoms between the upper and nether millstones of Hitlerism and Stalinism. One of the most objective chroniclers is Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University. In his view, it is still 'Operation Reinhardt,' or the planned destruction of Polish Jewry, that is to be considered as the centerpiece of what we commonly call the Holocaust, in which of the estimated 5.7 million Jewish dead, 'roughly three million were prewar Polish citizens.' We should not at all allow ourselves to forget the millions of non-Jewish citizens of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and other Slav territories who were also massacred. But for me the salient fact remains that anti-Semitism was the regnant, essential, organizing principle of all the other National Socialist race theories. It is thus not to be thought of as just one prejudice among many.”
Christopher Hitchens, Hitch 22: A Memoir

Lauro Martines
“It follows that the one thing we should not do to the men and women of past time, and particularly if they ghost through to us as larger than life, is to take them out of their historical contexts. To do so is to run the risk of turning them into monsters, whom we can denounce for our (frequently political) motives—an insidious game, because we are condemning in their make-up that which is likely to belong to a whole social world, the world that helped to fashion them and that is deviously reflected or distorted in them. Censure of this sort is the work of petty moralists and propagandists, not historians (p. 5).”
Lauro Martines, Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence

“A historian tries to understand what happened, why it happened, what was the context, who did what, and what assumptions led them to act as they did. A historian customarily displays a certain diffidence about trying to influence events, knowing that unanticipated developments often lead to unintended consequences.”
Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

“I shall relate quite simply how things happened and without adding anything of my own, which is no small feat for an historian.”
Voltaire, Micromegas

Penelope Lively
“I know quite well why I became a historian.... It was because dissension was frowned upon when I was a child: 'Don't argue, Claudia,' 'Claudia, you must not answer back like that.' Argument, of course, is the whole point of history. Disagreement; my word against yours; this evidence against that. If there were such a thing as absolute truth the debate would lose its lustre. I, for one, would no longer be interested.”
Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger

Jodi Taylor
“We don't do time-travel. That's for amateurs. We're not time-travellers - we're historians. We 'investigate major historical events in contemporary time'. so much more classy.”
Jodi Taylor, A Symphony of Echoes

Frank Herbert
“Los historiadores ejercen un gran poder, y algunos de ellos lo saben. Recrean el pasado, cambiándolo para que encaje con sus propias interpretaciones. De este modo, cambian también el futuro.”
Frank Herbert, Heretics of Dune

“Sources do not speak for themselves, graciously yielding up facts to the patient researcher, who approaches the evidence with his or her mind a tabula rasa cleared of personal views and preferences. Historians select material from archives and libraries with their minds freighted with preconceptions of various kinds, including hypotheses they wish to test, questions they want to answer, ideas about topics and issues they want to explore and understand.”
Paul Readman, Land and Nation in England: Patriotism, National Identity, and the Politics of Land, 1880-1914

“Probability is a light darted on the object, from the proofs, which for this reason are pertinently enough styled evidence. Plausibility is a native lustre issuing directly from the object. The former is the aim of the historian, the latter of the poet.”
George Campbell, The Philosophy of Rhetoric

“Chi si occupa di Storia si spoglia di simpatie e preconcetti. Ha un solo dovere: documentarsi e documentare. Si pone domande, scava negli archivi, se si imbatte in carte che non conosce le interroga e ne ascolta la voce, pronto a mutare parere se esse gli dicono parole nuove; infine propone risposte attendibili: non sue elucubrazioni, di cui nessuno saprebbe che fare, ma riflessioni fondate su dati inoppugnabili. Lo storico non ha sentimenti né inclinazioni. Ragiona.”
Aldo A. Mola, Declino e crollo della monarchia in Italia: I Savoia dall'Unità al referendum del 2 giugno 1946

“Anziché insegnare ai morti ciò che avrebbero dovuto fare, lo storico deve sforzarsi di capire perché lo fecero.”
Aldo A. Mola, Declino e crollo della monarchia in Italia: I Savoia dall'Unità al referendum del 2 giugno 1946

Ehsan Sehgal
“If anyone from any thought of school, reads, writes or reviews the history with the selected motives or pledges, will not be ever neutral and fair, and will abuse and misuse the history leading in a wrong direction. Due to the bitter fact that most historians and authors execute such conduct.”
Ehsan Sehgal

Jill Lepore
“Most of what once existed is gone... Nature takes one toll, malice another... most of what historians study survives because it was purposely kept... (it) is called the historical record, & it is maddeningly uneven, asymmetrical, & unfair.”
Jill Lepore, These Truths: A History of the United States

Bill Gaede
“For historical accuracy, we have scrubbed all dissenting opinions from history...”
Bill Gaede

Philip Pomper
“That may sound contradictory, but I don’t think that we can do without an idea of truth, even if we know that we are generating hypotheses and interpretations. The idea is to inspire the quest, not insist upon an answer or promise an assured outcome. It’s a utopian project. The subject is not that important. It’s just a pathway into the problems.”
Philip Pomper

Jadunath Sarkar
“I would not care whether truth is pleasant or unpleasant, and in consonance with or opposed to current views. I would not mind in the least whether truth is, or is not, a blow to the glory of my country. If necessary, I shall bear in patience the ridicule and slander of friends and society for the sake of preaching truth. But still I shall seek truth, understand truth, and accept truth. This should be the firm resolve of a historian”
Jadunath Sarkar

“Man’s capacity to rise above his social and historical situation seems to be conditioned by the sensitivity with which he recognizes the extent of his involvement in it.”
E.H. Carr, What Is History?

Danielle  Evans
“An ambitious freshman congresswoman demanded funding to put a public historian in every zip code in the country, a correction for what she called the contemporary crisis of truth. It was pitched as a new public works project for the intellectual class, so many of us lately busy driving cars and delivering groceries and completing tasks on demand to make ends meet. Government jobs would put all those degrees to work and be comparatively lucrative. The congresswoman envisioned a national network of fact-checkers and historians, a friendly citizen army devoted to making the truth so accessible and appealing it could not be ignored.”
Danielle Evans, The Office of Historical Corrections

“And again we confront the problem of history: it's usually the powerful who get to write it.”
Heather McGhee, Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019

“While some nations vow never to forget, our American battle has always been over what we allow ourselves to remember.

Our historical record, we know, is subjective. Not every account is written down. The distinction between equity and injustice, riot and uprising, hinges on whose hand holds the pen. So often, it seems, our history is hiding from us, preventing the possibility that we dare look back and tell the truth--afraid of what doing so may require of us now.”
Wesley Lowery, Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019

Lauren Elkin
“It is the condition of the historian to be constantly picturing the past, thrilled and obsessed by it, without for one moment wanting to be a part of it.”
Lauren Elkin, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London

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