Does History really repeat itself ?Does History really repeat itself ?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that this is going to be subject to one's point of view.  There is no definitive answer to the question.  Even the most hard- nosed determinist who does believe that there is a repeating pattern to all history will concede that not everything is an exact replica of the past.  There are nuanced differences in time and setting to make each historical event uniquely fit for its context.

However, I think that there are aspects of historical narrative that repeat itself.  This is where one can see the themes of history emerge.  There are historical themes that repeat themselves and in doing so, patterns in historical dialectic emerges.  Different thinkers see different themes emerge.  This makes it so that historical patterns repeat.

Most of the proponents of people who believe in history repeating itself follow the quote from Santayana of those who "cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it."  Yet, even he would say that human freedom and individual action do not reduce human beings to empty vessels of action.  They have conscious choice and can make distinct actions in which history does not have to repeat itself.  Although, it is interesting to note that individuals who act in this manner are probably acting like others before them, indicating that even in the mere act of resistance some level of repeating the past is evident.  In the final analysis, if there is an answer to this question, it might lie with aspects of one side being valid, alongside aspects of another side being equally valid.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

History does not exactly repeat itself.  The same things do not happen over and over.  Hoever, there are themes that recur in history, most likely because human beings remain more or less the same over time.

As an example of this, a recurring theme in history is that countries tend to overreach themselves as they try to increase their power.  Time and again, countries seek more power without really realizing that the countries that already have power will try to keep that power.  This tends to end up leading to war even if none of the countries wanted war.

So history does repeat itself in the sense that similar needs and desires on the part of people and nations tend to influence history over and over.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, what happens is that if we do not finish with goals that we have to reach, or if a specific event does not obtain its due closure, lessons will not be learned. This means that there will be a higher probability that the same mistakes will be made, and this is what makes some instances in history seem cyclical.

On the contrary, if we analyze situations properly we will be able to understand the nature of many things. We will act more wisely the more we learn, and we will be bound to develop, instead of repeating past actions. History cannot repeat itself.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I tend to believe that history does repeat itself if people do not analyze the actions they make in life. Many people do not learn from past mistakes (I am certainly guilty of this), and it sometimes takes many similar repeats before a person recognizes the faultiness of his actions. The Holocaust should have served as an example that an attempted extermination of a group of people will not succeed or be accepted by others; yet, there have been many other attempts to do so since the end of WWII--particularly in Africa and Asia.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rather than declaring that history repeats itself, perhaps one should state that human nature is essentially the same throughout any age.  The essential themes of man vs. man hold true in any era; the greed, sadism, hatred,desire for power, and religious fanaticism are the driving forces of any historical period.

harini11 | Student

I couldnt clearly define this question. In hitory students learn about past happenings, World History explains past happenings of entire world.

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