History

History is fighting

Some unkind aphorisms:
• The only things we learn from history are:
-People fight, and
-People say they understand history but don’t
• Blood alone moves the wheels of history.
• History isn’t the past, it’s what we think about the past.
• History doesn’t repeat itself; historians repeat themselves.
• History is what one age finds remarkable in another.
• The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided persons.
• News is the first draft of history.
• What’s the line between history and drama?
• Everything of importance has been said before by someone who did not discover it (Whitehead’s law)
• There is no golden age. There never was.
• Historical analogy is the last refuge of people who can’t grasp the current situation.
• Europe is too morally exhausted and enfeebled by history to survive.
• The ink of history is fluid prejudice.
• The past, unfortunately, is not past. History is the present, carried with us.
• History is nothing but gossip about the past, with the hope that it might be true.
• Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.
• Tradition is what the present calls those regions of the past that it retains, that it cherishes and that it needs.
• History is written by the victors.
• History does not belong to us but rather we to it.
• Yesterday’s surprise is tomorrow’s inevitable history.
• History is a long series of surprises that seemed inevitable in retrospect.
• Any damn fool can predict the past.
• History is old news.
• Can we give any historical account detailing the requisite social circumstances, accidents and personal idiosyncrasies?
• History teaches us to fear the uncontrollable lurking just around the corner.
• Shit happens.
• History teaches us that things were worse.
• All that which has given colour to existence has had no history; where is there a history of love, avarice, envy, conscience, piety, cruelty?
• We are just another era, in another set of deeply integrated nonsense…another tumble in the kaleidoscope of historical culture.
• If history tells us anything, it’s <whatever I believe>.
• If we have free will, all history is the diluted “Great man history” of billions; and most causal analysis is pointless.
• If it were possible to “rewind the tape”, then the decision would be the same. Given this specific history, I ask for icecream. I cannot do otherwise.
• History is making a judgement and arguing that the sources/evidence support it
• History teaches to always consider the nature, origin, purpose, motives & intended audience of sources.
• History teaches the cui bono or to consider the basest agenda.
• We can’t learn from history but we sure do enjoy thinking that we can.
• Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
• If history has taught us anything, it’s that you can kill anyone.
• Had Cleopatra’s nose been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.
• Is history a futile pattern-seeking desperation to understand?
• We pretend we can plan things, that we are in control, that effort pays off, that we learn from history etc. Are these comforting lies to get us through the day?
• Is the belief in historical lessons an illusion of our control and understanding in the face of uncertainty? Is history vanity?
• History, it seems, never repeats itself.
• The only thing more pointless than history is talking about it.
• People see what they want to see.
• The preservation of historical monuments begins with the museumisation of the past, where cult value increasingly gives way to exhibition value. This goes hand in hand with the rise of tourism.
• It’s easy to judge in hindsight — we all like to think we’d do differently were we in past people’s shoes — yet we are ignorant of the real pressures facing them and we underplay them and assume we would somehow be immune to them. The greatest challenge is “events, my dear boy, events.”
• There are no facts, only interpretations.
• The consequences of any particular event at any particular scale are vast and inscrutable.
• The “lessons” of history are unclear and there is little consensus.
• Merely pointing at the current state of the world to attribute causation is a post-hoc fallacy.
• Are any putative lessons of history just a Rorschach test for one’s existing prejudice?
• Does history/social science lack predictive power?
• There is nothing so tainted with fiction as history.
• History is written in blood, not speeches.
• Consequences are incalculable.
• Is historical causation a subjective narrative?
• Only a fool thinks he can solve the world’s problems.
• There are two histories: the actual series of events that once occurred, absolute and unchanged; and the ideal series that we affirm and hold in memory — relative, always changing.
• Every person has their own history which they imaginatively recreate as an artificial extension of their personal experience, an engaging blend of fact and fancy.
• Historians may be of that company of wise people of the tribe, bards and story-tellers and minstrels, soothsayers and priests, to whom, in successive ages, the keeping of useful myths is entrusted.
• Is historical truth only the most convenient form of error?

Yet everything has a history and its importance echoes into today.
And in some sense we can understand the past.
Although history seems contested, historians do not say that in WW1, Belgium invaded Germany.
That all historical information is useless goes too far. Is a detective ignorant of historical causation when he finds a smoking gun at a murder scene etc?
The past is a foreign country, separated in time and space, but with a living legacy.

• What is the inertia of the past and its culture?
• How do we tell what historical events matter?
• Why preserve the past? What is its value?
• What are the appropriate levels of description?
• What is historical evidence?
• What is historical objectivity?
• Are there historical laws?
• Is progress inevitable?
• Did the past happen?
• Is remembering the past healthy?
• Should we leave the past in the past?
• How should the present judge the past?

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