Posted by: pkab | 20 April 2008

What is History?


Apakah Sejarah itu?

What follows are a series of quotations about history     and the historian’s craft. They have been culled from a variety of sources and they appear     here in totally random order. Their purpose is to incite, energize and stimulate your     historical imagination.

“‘History,’ Stephen said, ‘is a nightmare from  which I am trying to awake.'” James Joyce

“Since history has no properly scientific value,  its only purpose is educative. And if historians neglect to educate the public, if they     fail to interest it intelligently in the past, then all their historical learning is     valueless except in so far as it educates themselves.” G. M. Trevelyan.

“To each eye, perhaps, the outlines of a great     civilization present a different picture. In the wide ocean upon which we venture, the     possible ways and directions are many; and the same studies which have served for my work     might easily, in other hands, not only receive a wholly different treatment and     application, but lead to essentially different conclusions.” Jacob Burckhardt

“History is the witness that testifies to the     passing of time; it illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily     life, and brings us tidings of antiquity.” Cicero

“The past is useless. That explains why it is     past.” Wright Morris

“Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far     more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may     be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may     be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit     of the time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character,     habits, and manners of those who took part in them. He must himself be, as it were, a     sharer or a spectator of the action he describes.” Francis Parkman

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

“There is properly no history; only     biography.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The study of history is the best medicine for a     sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience     plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find yourself and your country     both examples and warnings; fine things to take as models, base things rotten through and     through, to avoid.” Livy

“What experience and history teach is this-that     people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles     deduced from it.” G. W. F. Hegel

“Everything must be recaptured and relocated in     the general framework of history, so that despite the difficulties, the fundamental     paradoxes and contradictions, we may respect the unity of history which is also the unity     of life.” Fernand Braudel

“The function off the historian is neither to love     the past nor to emancipate himself from the past, but to master and understand it as the     key to the understanding of the present.” E. H. Carr

“If you do not like the past, change it.” William     L. Burton

“History does nothing, possesses no enormous     wealth, fights no battles. It is rather man, the real, living man, who does everything,     possesses, fights. It is not History, as if she were a person apart, who uses men     as a means to work out her purposes, but history itself is nothing but the activity of men     pursuing their purposes.” Karl Marx

“An historian should yield himself to his subject,     become immersed in the place and period of his choice, standing apart from it now and then     for a fresh view.” Samuel Eliot Morison

“History is for human self-knowledge.     Knowing yourself means knowing, first, what it is to be a person; secondly, knowing what     it is to be the kind of person you are; and thirdly, knowing what it is to be the person you     are and nobody else is. Knowing yourself means knowing what you can do; and since nobody     knows what they can do until they try, 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

“History is more or less bunk.” Henry Ford

“That historians should give their own country a     break, I grant you; but not so as to state things contrary to fact. For there are plenty     of mistakes made by writers out of ignorance, and which any man finds it difficult to     avoid. But if we knowingly write what is false, whether for the sake of our country or our     friends or just to be pleasant, what difference is there between us and hack writers?     Readers should be very attentive to and critical of historians, and they in turn should be     constantly on their guard.” Polybius

“You have reckoned that history ought to judge the     past and to instruct the contemporary world as to the future. The present attempt does not     yield to that high office. It will merely tell how it really was.” Leopold von     Ranke

“Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow     carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity.     . . . But the tale of history forms a very strong bulwark against the stream of time, and     checks in some measure its irresistible flow, so that, of all things done in it, as many     as history has taken over it secures and binds together, and does not allow them to slip     away into the abyss of oblivion.” Anna Comnena

“Only a good-for-nothing is not interested in his past.” Sigmund Freud

“Every past is worth condemning.” Friedrich     Nietzsche

“The historian does simply not come in to     replenish the gaps of memory. He constantly challenges even those memories that have     survived intact.” Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi

“Each age tries to form its own conception of the     past. Each age writes the history of the past anew with reference to the conditions     uppermost in its own time.” Frederick Jackson Turner

Source: History of This World


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