Breaking Down Some of History’s Most Important Quotes

As with Philosophy and Literature, History is open to confusion but in its own unique way. As the world changes, language changes along with it. Thus when we look back at a particular quote that occurred in a particular time period, we have to constantly ask ourselves is this really what the author meant? Languages change, cultures change, and yet we project our 21st century worldview onto others. What did they actually mean? What did they actually want to know or claim to know?

In E. H. Carr’s legendary Magnus Opus What Is History? Carr discusses the obstacles that Historians must deal with (whether honestly or not). The reality is that historians, just like every other scholar in every field of academia, is always picking and choosing how to frame a certain set of ‘facts.’ There’s no obvious reason why a historian would study say a treatise by Julius Caesar or the opinion of his Gallic opponents in the same time and place. 

The best defense of this reality, to paraphrase Historian Richard J. Evans’ book In Defence of History, is that at least we know that. At least we are aware, to some extent, of our cognitive biases and our limitations to frame ‘all’ the relevant facts. Our admission and knowledge of that fact is what allows us as researchers, writers and academics the chance to autocorrect as we go. 

As such, please keep in mind that all posts in this category (and all categories) are open to revision as errors are spotted or new evidence emerges. Quotes may not change, but our opinions about them do.

Finally, PLEASE feel free to let us know if we haven’t gotten to a particular quote you’re interested in or if you’ve discovered an error in one of our posts (in which case definitely contact us).

winston churchill drawing

We Shall Fight On The Beaches Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill’s famous “We Shall Fight On The Beaches” quote is perhaps the most famous line from his most famous quote. However, few seem to understand what Churchill meant in terms of context at the time the words were uttered. Let’s breakdown all of the context, and words, surrounding Winston’s famous 1940 line.

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Drawing of Winston Churchill

Best Winston Churchill Quotes

A page dedicated to the former Prime Minister Winston Churchill whose leadership during WWII turned the course of the war. Throughout his life, Churchill was a quote machine with great quotes coming in every book or speech he gave. This page, a type of historical dedication to the man, will document some of the great quotes and where they appeared in his life.

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statue of Herodotus

Of All Men’s Miseries, The Bitterest Is This Herodotus

The Greek writer Herodotus, who wrote extensively about war and geography, may be most known to for his line “Of all men’s miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing.” We’ll get into who Herodotus was, what he said, and just what he ancient Greek historian was talking about in what is perhaps his most famous quote. The simple explanation of the words can be understood as Herodotus saying that humans are really smart, but we can’t control everything. This can be frustrating because we can understand what’s happening, but we can’t always do anything about it.

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Ayn Rand

There is No Smaller Minority Than The Individual Ayn Rand

This page is an in-depth investigation into the quote by Ayn Rand often summarized as “there is no smaller minority than the individual.” We’re going to (attempt) to put that quote into context, as well explain what she was talking about and some of the many ways the quote has been (and can be) adapted to contemporary politics.

Remember that although Ayn Rand is considered a far right figure in terms of her political beliefs, we would ask you to avoid that being cause to dismiss her in her entirety.

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Oppenheimer and nuclear bomb

Now I Am Become Death Destroyer of Worlds J. Robert Oppenheimer

This page is going to look at the historical and political background surrounding J. Robert Oppenheimer’s famous utterance that is often referenced with his repurposing of the quote “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” The full quote by Oppenheimer can be viewed below and hints at the level of dismay that the legendary physicist had about dropping the bomb.

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removal of nuance

Tyranny is the Deliberate Removal of Nuance Albert Maysles

Film director and documentarian Albert Maysles once said “Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance.” Below, we’ll get to what Maysles meant by the “Deliberate Removal of Nuance.” Brother of David Maysles, who served as his partner in crime, the duo were famous for “Direct Cinema style” of film making. However in just seven words, the filmmaker guaranteed his legacy would be recognized by people outside of the media landscape.

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Rosa Luxemburg

These Special Jewish Pains Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg (5 March 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a famous Polish-German politician who fiercely opposed both capitalism and authoritarian powers. Her enchanting quote, below, is considered one of the most memorable calls for the treatment of all humans equally, regardless of ones local in-group.

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Necessity of Renouncing Their Inalienable Right Andrei Vyshinsky

Andrei Vyshinsky was a major figure in Stalin’s Soviet Empire at the conclusion of the second world war. As the two major super powers left, or as could be argued the only two super powers ever two exist, both raced to create and solidify their influence over Europe. The U.S. plan, which we now know as the Marshall Plan, sought to guarantee U.S. influence in Europe through large (much needed) emergency funding options throughout decimated western Europe.

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Yogi Berra

I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said Yogi Berra

Despite being considered aggressively, if not shockingly, mentally limited Yogi Bera nonetheless has more memorable quotes than anyone in the sports industry (if not all industries). Perhaps not his most most memorable quotes of all time, this quote “I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said” is perhaps one of Yogi’s most classic. The quote underscores the importance and value of quotes themselves, and perhaps undermines, to some extent, the very necessity of scholarship on the subject. What matters is that the quote(s) exist and the impact they had on society. Perhaps less important is identifying sole authorship.

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