When it comes to ‘ the lessons of history ‘ there are doubtless many things we could aspire to learn.
Some of those would be more practically useful, in terms of contributing to the normal and decent functioning of well-meaning societies than others.
Here, some quotes are presented showing how some observers express disillusionment about Humanity’s all-too-frequent failure to learn worthwhile lessons from history!
The last few quotations, on the other hand, show an appreciation that deeply important lessons about Human Existence can be learnt from the study of History.
Our overview of the possible lessons of history may not so much explicitly focus importance on the broader range of past mistakes of history, of which there are many, as learning useful lessons about – The Human Condition AND Social Change.
This can show, through cautionary examples, how past mistakes have arisen from time to time disrupting the normal and decent functioning of would-be well-meaning societies.
“We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let’s face it, is mostly the history of stupidity.”
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”
“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 us is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“Rulers, Statesmen, Nations, are wont to be emphatically commended to the teaching which experience offers in history. But what experience and history teach is this – that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it. Each period is involved in such peculiar circumstances, exhibits a condition of things so strictly idiosyncratic, that its conduct must be regulated by considerations connected with itself, and itself alone.”
G. W. F. Hegel
“History repeats itself because no one was listening the first time.”
“Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us therefore study the incidents in this as philosophy to learn wisdom from and none of them as wrongs to be avenged.”
Abraham Lincoln (in the context of The American Civil War of 1861 to 1865)
“History is for human self-knowledge … the only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.”
R. G. Collingwood
“What man is, only history tells.”
“Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular. Its chief use is only to discover the constant and universal principles of human nature.”
Together We Are Strong,