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Inspirational Quotes About History And The Future

Norbert Juma, Editor
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Our only fault as humankind is that we are prone to repeating our mistakes, and these history quotes will open your eyes to stories of generations past.

Our history impacts us, and understanding it can benefit us.

Share your favorite quote about history with us in the comment section below.

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According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, people who have a greater understanding of history tend to be more optimistic about the future and have a greater sense of personal purpose and direction.

This suggests that a knowledge of the past can provide inspiration and guidance for moving forward.

What are the benefits of reading these historical quotes?

For you to understand how and why our present world is the way it is, look to history for answers.

Having knowledge of our history allows us to:

  • understand where we are coming from
  • understand our present
  • gain knowledge so we can create a better future

An understanding of the successes and failures of the past is important if we are to grow and make progress from now on.

If we do not learn from our past mistakes, we are bound to repeat them.

When you have knowledge of history, you’ll be able to make more sense of the current world.

Studying past economic and cultural trends can help you predict what will happen next in today’s world.

It can also allow you to understand why some rules exist in today’s world.

To open your eyes to stories of the past, below is our collection of inspirational, wise, and helpful history quotes, history sayings, and history proverbs collected from a variety of sources over the years.

If you enjoy this article, check out our most popular quote article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily motivation. 

If you want more motivational quotes, check out our motivational quotes category page.

History Quotes To Get You Inspired By Legends Of The Past

Research from the University of Cambridge suggests that individuals who are able to draw inspiration from the past are better equipped to navigate challenges and uncertainty in the present and future.

This underscores the importance of looking to history for insights and lessons that can inform our actions and decisions.

1. “History is the interpretation of the significance that the past has for us.” – Johan Huizinga

History Quotes About Significance

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2. “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” – Maya Angelou

Smart History Quotes

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3. “The lovers of romance can go elsewhere for satisfaction but where can the lovers of truth turn if not to history?” – Katharine Anthony

History Quotes About Lovers

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4. “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

History Quotes To Get You Inspired By Legends Of The Past

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5. “No volume of history is insignificant, even the worst chapters. Especially the worst chapters.” – Terri Guillemets

History Quotes About Chapters

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6. “History is a kind of introduction to more interesting people than we can possibly meet in our restricted lives; let us not neglect the opportunity.” – Dexter Perkins

History Quotes About Introductions

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7. “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” ― Michael Crichton

Wise History Quotes

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8. “A generation which ignores history has no past – and no future.” –  Robert A. Heinlein

History Quotes About Generations

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9. “You don’t change the course of history by turning the faces of portraits to the wall.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

History Quotes About Change

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10. “If you think you have it tough, read history books.” – Bill Maher

History Quotes About Books

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History quotes to open your eyes to stories of the past

In a survey conducted by the University of Michigan, 89% of respondents reported feeling inspired by quotes that connect the past and the future,  many citing gaining perspective and context as a key motivator. 

This underscores the universal appeal of history quotes to provide inspiration and insight into the relationship between history and the future.

11. “More and more, I tend to read history. I often find it more up to date than the daily newspapers.” – Joe Murray

History Quotes About Newspapers

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12. “The writing of histories – as Goethe once noted – is one way of getting rid of the weight of the past…. The writing of history liberates us from history.” – Benedetto Croce

Goethe History Quotes

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13. “Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.” – Abraham Lincoln

Powerful History Quotes

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14. History is a mighty drama, enacted upon the theatre of times, with suns for lamps and eternity for a background.” – Thomas Carlyle

History Quotes About Drama

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15. “History can bring luck: this is what we can call optimism.” – Stephane Hessel

History quotes to open your eyes to stories of the past

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16. “History is a symphony of echoes heard and unheard. It is a poem with events as verses.” – Charles Angoff

Inspiring History Quotes

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17. “To study history means submitting yourself to chaos, but nevertheless retaining your faith in order and meaning.” – Herman Hesse

History Quotes About Studying

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18. “History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.” – John F. Kennedy

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Bright History Quotes

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19. “History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” – David McCullough

Clever History Quotes

20. “He who puts out his hand to stop the wheel of history will have his fingers crushed.” – Lech Walesa

Brilliant History Quotes

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History quotes to inspire and teach

According to a survey by Pew Research Center, Americans’ knowledge of history is generally poor, with only 27% of adults able to correctly identify the purpose of the Emancipation Proclamation.

This statistic highlights the need for continued education and engagement with history as a means of improving historical literacy and understanding.

21. “History is the action and reaction of these two, nature and thought – two boys pushing each other on the curbstone of the pavement.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

History Quotes About Action

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22. “History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.” –  Alexis de Tocqueville

History Quotes About Pictures

23. “The history of the past is but one long struggle upward to equality.” – Elizabeth Cady Stanton

History Quotes About Past

24. “History is the story of events, with praise or blame.” – Cotton Mather

History Quotes About Events

25. “History is a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man.” – Percy Bysshe Shelley

History quotes to inspire and teach

26. “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey

27. “History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.” – Lord Acton

28. “History is a relay of revolutions.” – Saul Alinsky

29. “People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them.” – James Baldwin

30. “History is the only laboratory we have in which to test the consequences of thought.” – Etienne Gilson

History quotes that will enrich your life

According to a survey by the American Historical Association, 91% of Americans believe it is important to know about history, with 84% believing that history helps us better understand the present.

This statistic highlights the value and importance that many Americans place on history as a subject of study and reflection.

31. “History never looks like history when you are living through it.” – John W. Gardner

32. “Human history, in essence, is the history of ideas.” – H. G. Wells

33. “Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.” – Oscar Wilde

34. “No other discipline has its portals so wide open to the general public as history.” – Johan Huizinga

35. “Fear not for the future, weep not for the past.” – Percy Bysshe Shelley

History quotes that will enrich your life

36. “Psychology keeps trying to vindicate human nature. History keeps undermining the effort.” – Mason Cooley
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37. “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” ― Mark Twain

38. “I can’t change history, I don’t want to change history. I can only change the future. I’m working on that.” – Boris Becker

39. “History is philosophy teaching by examples.” – Thucydides

40. “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” ― George Orwell

Inspirational quotes about history

A survey conducted by the National Museum of American History found that 64% of Americans believe that learning about history can inspire individuals to make positive changes in their own lives.

This suggests that history can be a powerful tool for personal growth and self-improvement.

41. “Knowledge of history frees us to be contemporary.” – Lynn White, Jr.
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42. “Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” – C. Wright Mills

43. “History does nothing; it does not possess immense riches, it does not fight battles. It is men, real, living, who do all this.” – Karl Marx

44. “The historian has been the hearth at which the soul of the country has been kept alive.” – John Morley

45. “History gets thicker as it approaches recent times.” – A.J.P. Taylor

46. “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana

inspirational quotes about history

47. “In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.” – Edmund Burke

48. “History gives answers only to those who know how to ask questions.” – Hajo Holborn

49. “Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.” – Winston Churchill

50. “The best prophet of the future is the past.” – Lord Byron

More history quotes and sayings

According to a study by the National Endowment for the Humanities, students who study history in college earn 31% more than those who do not, emphasizing the value of history quotes that promote the importance of education and lifelong learning.

This statistic underscores the importance of quotes that encourage individuals to invest in their education and to pursue knowledge throughout their lives.

51. “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” – Winston S. Churchill

52. “History is a people’s memory, and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.” – Malcolm X

53. “And the whole world watched, and history remembered.” – Casey McQuiston

54. “The duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.” – Oscar Wilde

55. “We’ll be remembered more for what we destroy than what we create.” – Chuck Palahniuk

56. “History, like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of imaginary brightness.” – James Fenimore Cooper

57. “Study the past if you would define the future.” – Confucius

58. “History, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” – James Joyce

59. “History is a set of lies agreed upon.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

60. “When history fails to shed light on the truth, myth creates its own.”― Samantha Shannon

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History quotes about the power of learning from the past

According to a survey by Pew Research Center, 70% of Americans believe that history is an important subject for students to learn in school, highlighting the need for history quotes that inspire individuals to appreciate and learn from the lessons of the past.

This statistic underscores the importance of quotes that emphasize the value of studying history and understanding its relevance to our lives today.

61. “God cannot alter the past, though historians can.” — Samuel Butler

62. “Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.” — Edward R. Murrow

63. “We learn from history that we don’t learn from history!”― Desmond Tutu

64. “It takes an endless amount of history to make even a little tradition.” — Henry James

65. “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” Thomas Jefferson

66. “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” — H. G. Wells

67. “The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down.” — A. Whitney Brown

68. “History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” — Edward Gibbon

69. “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.” — Aldous Huxley

70. “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein

History Quotes to Ponder

According to a study by the National Park Service, more than 300 million people visit U.S. national parks each year, emphasizing the popularity and cultural significance of historical landmarks and sites.

This statistic underscores the importance of quotes that inspire individuals to visit and learn from historical sites and to connect with our shared heritage.

71. “Alternate history fascinates me, as it fascinates all novelists, because ‘What if?’ is the big thing.” – Kate Atkinson

72. “The History of the past interests us only in so far as it illuminates the history of the present.” – Ernest Dimnet

73. “History is a symptom of our disease.”― Mao Tse-tung

74. “If history and science have taught us anything, it is that passion and desire are not the same as truth.” – E. O. Wilson

75. “Our history is not our destiny” Alan Cohen

76. “History is Storytelling.”― Yaa Gyasi

77. “Life moves fast. As much as you can, learn from your history, you have to move forward.” – Eddie Vedder

78. “History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again.” Kurt Vonnegut

79. “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce” Karl Marx

80. “If you want a present different from the past, study the past.” – Baruch Spinoza

History Quotes About What History Is

According to a survey conducted by the American Historical Association, more than 80% of Americans believe that it is important to learn about history.

This statistic can be used to emphasize the importance of studying history and the relevance of history quotes in everyday life.

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

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

83. “The history of mankind is the instant between two strides taken by a traveler.” — Franz Kafka

84. “What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past.” — Victor Hugo

85. “History is mostly guessing; the rest is prejudice.” — Will Durant

86. “History is a vast early warning system.” — Norman Cousins

87. “History is information. Memory is part of your identity.” — David Miliband

88. “History is nothing but assisted and recorded memory.” — George Santayana

89. “History is nothing if not an epic tale of missed opportunities.” — Graydon Carter

90. “Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.” — Aristotle

Famous History Quotes To Inspire Leadership

A survey conducted by Pew Research Center found that 46% of American adults believe that history should be taught as a means of promoting patriotism, while 42% believe that history should be taught as a way of understanding the world today.

This statistic can be used to highlight the different ways in which people view the importance of history.

91. “History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

92. “Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

93. “The history of free men is never really written by chance but by choice; their choice!” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

94. “Things have never been more like the way they are today in history.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

95. “Americans are rising to the tasks of history, and they expect the same of us.” — George W. Bush

96. “History is moving, and it will tend toward hope, or tend toward tragedy.” — George W. Bush

97. “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.” — Harry S. Truman

98. “The greatest honor history can bestow is that of peacemaker.” — Richard M. Nixon

99. “History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.” — Ronald Reagan

100. “History is written by the victors.” — Winston Churchill

History Quotes That Relate To Today’s Life

A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that students who are exposed to history courses that emphasize critical thinking and analysis are more likely to retain historical knowledge and to be able to apply it to real-world situations.

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This finding can be used to argue that history quotes that promote critical thinking and reflection can have a lasting impact on readers.

101. “The repeated lies become history, but they don’t necessarily become the truth.” ― Colum McCann

102. “There was something so heavy about the burden of history, of the past. I wasn’t sure I had it in me to keep looking back.” ― Sarah Dessen

103. “To believe that what has not occurred in history will not occur at all, is to argue disbelief in the dignity of man.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

104. “I know history. There are many names in history but none of them are ours.” ― Richard Siken

105. “Those who understand history are condemned to watch other idiots repeat it.” ― Peter Lamborn Wilson

106. “Never question the power of one! Throughout history it has been the actions of only one person who has inspired the movement of change.” ― Steve Maraboli

107. “I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am, also, much more than that. So are we all.” ― James Baldwin

108. “The lack of a sense of history is the damnation of the modern world.” ― Robert Penn Warren

109. “Human history is a Gaian dream.” ― Terence McKenna

110. “History as well as life itself is complicated — neither life nor history is an enterprise for those who seek simplicity and consistency.” ― Jared Diamond

History Quotes To Encourage You To Know Your Past

111. “There is no better teacher than history in determining the future. There are answers worth billions of dollars in a $30 history book.”  — Charlie Munger

112. “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” — Edmund Burke

113. “There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.” — Michelle Obama

114.“If you’re concerned about what’s going on today, read history and figure out what to do because it’s all right there.” — Tom Hanks

115. “History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” — David McCullough

116. “History…may be called, more generally still, the Message, verbal or written, which all Mankind delivers to every man.” — Thomas Carlyle

117. “You cannot amputate your history from your destiny, because that is redemption.” — Beth Moore

118. “The imagination is the goal of history. I see culture as an effort to literally realize our collective dreams.” ― Terence McKenna

119. “You can’t be a full participant in our democracy if you don’t know our history.” ― David McCullough

120. “History is a strange teacher. It never repeats itself exactly, but you ignore its general lessons at your peril.” ― Madeleine Albright

History Quotes That Open Our Eyes

121. “You have to look at history as an evolution of society.” — Jean Chretien

122. “The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history.” ― Oscar Wilde

123. “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

124.“Fantasy. Lunacy. All revolutions are, until they happen, then they are historical inevitabilities.” ― David Mitchell

125. “Blood alone moves the wheels of history.” — Martin Luther

126. “The very shaping of history now outpaces the ability of men to orient themselves in accordance with cherished values.” — C. Wright Mills

127. “Fate has to do with events in history that are the summary and unintended results of innumerable decisions of innumerable men.” — C. Wright Mills

128. “The value of history is certainty – against which opinion is broken up.” — Lord Acton

129. “There is a history in all men’s lives.” — William Shakespeare

130. “Man is a history-making creature who can neither repeat his past nor leave it behind.” — W.H. Auden

History Quotes About Echoes of the Past

131. “The value of history. that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.” ― Robin G. Collingwood

132. “Never doubt that you can change history. You already have.” ― Marge Piercy

133. “The entire history of mankind is, in any case, nothing but a prolonged fight to the death for the conquest of universal prestige and absolute power.” ― Albert Camus

134. “History casts its shadow far into the land of song.” ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

135. “In history as in human life, regret does not bring back a lost moment and a thousand years will not recover something lost in a single hour.” ― Stefan Zweig

136. “To those of you who seek lost objects of history, I wish you the best of luck. They’re out there, and they’re whispering.” ― Clive Cussler

137. “Throughout history, every period of enlightenment has been accompanied by darkness, pushing in opposition. Such are laws of nature and balance.” ― Dan Brown

138. “History belongs to the intercessors – those who believe and pray the future into being.” ― Walter Wink

139. “What we learn from history is that people don’t learn from history.” ― Warren Buffett

140. “We won’t let history define our future. Our actions will do the talking. Our determination will turn doubters into believers.” ― Andrew McCutchen

Did you enjoy these history quotes?

Having knowledge of our history allows us to learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating them in the future.

It gives us a chance to understand where we came from so we can create a better future.

When you look at history, you’ll know where you came from, get a better understanding of society today, understand what causes change, and get inspired to take action in your life.

Hopefully, the quotes above have inspired you to learn from your past.

Which of these history quotes resonated with you best?

Do you have any other favorite quotes to add?

Feel free to share with us in the comment section below.

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  1. Dan Wilson

    October 23, 2022 at 2:30 PM

    I understand that George Santayana wrote it in the book, “The Life of Reason” (1905). However that was from the series “Great Ideas of Western Man” – which infers an earlier source.

  2. Jheilman

    April 28, 2022 at 7:46 PM

    Who said, If you don’t know your history, you are bound to repeat it”?

  3. D Hall

    May 25, 2021 at 7:22 PM

    These are terrific! I love the wide array of authors. Thank you!

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