What is History?

little girl working in textile mill--ca. 1920

Selected definitions:

A)    History is a fable agreed upon (Napoleon).

B)     History is the orderly progression of mankind to a definite end.

C)    History is the lamp by which we see human nature in action (Anonymous).

D)    The history of the world is the unfolding of human freedom (Georg Hegel).

E)     Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it (George Santayana).

F)     History is stories written primarily by men about men’s experiences of the world—i.e. war, politics, and presidents (Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler).

G)    All history is thus: a radical selection from the immensely rich swirl of past human activity (Richard Price).

H)    History is about exploring the nature of social change (Alice Kessler-Harris).

I)       History is the study of change over time, but open to interpretation and disagreement.

J)    An unending dialogue between the past and the present (E. H. Carr).

K)   “History is bunk”–History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s dam is the history we make today (Henry Ford).

L)   History will teach us nothing (Sting).