What are some examples of history repeating itself?
In terms of history repeating itself, there are two examples that come to mind.
During World War II, the Nazi regime in Germany systematically attempted to annihilate not only the Jewish population, but also any individuals or groups that did not conform specifically to what the Nazis believed to be pure, such as the handicapped, homosexuals, etc. This was known as ethnic cleansing, which is defined as:
...the elimination of an unwanted ethnic group or groups from a
society, as by genocide or forced emigration.
Ethnic cleansing is still a haunting horror of World War II that goes far beyond the loss of life in battle.
Some of history’s most terrible atrocities took place during World War II, including the Holocaust (the systematic murder of approximately ten million civilians that the Nazis considered unworthy of life) which claimed the lives of approximately six million Jews.
Another example of genocide in the modern world (showing that history is, once again, repeating itself) is in Darfur. While genocide, or ethnic cleansing was taking place in Darfur for a very long time, it was only when it was brought to national attention that people began to notice:
Using its own military and the Janjaweed militia, Sudan's regime has conducted a systematic campaign to kill and drive out Darfur's ethnic Fur, Massalit, and Zhagawa peoples.
Another example of history repeating itself can be found by comparing the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th Century to the growing civil rights movement of today.
Oppression of the rights of African-Americans (segregation, voting rights, equitable employment, education, assault, murder, etc.) drove the rising (and justified) dissatisfaction of black society in America in the 1950s and 1960s. There were "...riots in urban ghettoes in the 1960’s..." that were answered with violence from white law enforcement and politicians. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. turned the tide of revolution towards peaceful resistance. Ultimately, President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (also known as the Fair Housing Act of 1968).
In modern day America, it seems fairly obvious that we are on the brink of another civil rights movement. Protests have been erupting across the nation for a number of years now, most especially in light of alleged (and actual) violence by some police officers (predominantly white) against black members of society. Some of the victims have been armed and/or posing a physical threat, while others have been killed, despite having their hands raised or being non-resistant. Of most recent concern is the death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina.
These eruptions of violence have resulted, conversely, in attacks against police officers sitting in patrol cars on duty or on the streets.
In terms of modern civil rights practices...
[Civil Rights activists’] weapons are demonstrations and lawsuits, but spreadsheets too; their battles are fought on sidewalks, in courtrooms and over social media. While their tone is occasionally harsher than Martin Luther King Jr.'s, they also espouse nonviolence.
As is the case with the genocide by Nazi Germany and that in Darfur in recent years, the civil unrest within black communities of the 20th Century seems to be repeating itself in 21st Century American society.
Both instances beg the question, what have we not learned from history?
As previous posters have noted, some of the most prominent examples have been wars. This is due partly to the fact that humans seem to be constantly involved in or on the verge of a conflict.
One of the most fascinating, to me, is the way that so many large and powerful nations have attempted to either occupy or pacify the area we now call Afghanistan with the same results in almost every case.
Alexander the Great, the Mongols, and the British all tried to occupy that area and were eventually forced to withdraw due to their inability to manage the combination of incredibly fierce fighters and extremely challenging terrain.
The same thing happened to the Soviets when they invaded and attempted to occupy Afghanistan and our invasion/mission there seems to have followed the pattern almost exactly. It becomes hugely expensive and eventually when political will or the necessary resources run out, the occupying force withdraws.
History has repeated itself many times over throughout the time that humans have been on earth. While history does not literally repeat itself, meaning the events that happen are not 100% exactly the same, for the most part they are similar enough that one can justify it "repeating" itself.
I believe one of the greatest examples of history repeating itself is with any war. For starters, every single war since the beginning of time has resulted in a loss of something. Lives, money, tools, food, or most likely all of the above. War is never a good thing. Yet, almost all history textbooks are focused around different wars throughout history. Why? Because it happens over and over again.
While often used in casual ways, the concept of history repeating itself can be rooted, in part, in systems theory. Originating with the ideas of biologist L. von Bertalanffy in the 1930s, it is used across disciplines and fields of study in order to identify the interdependence of overlapping patterns. It can be applied to everything from the interaction of the smallest particles, to biological life, to patterns in human society and behavior.
Early development of systems theory was based on von Bertalanffy's work following WWI and WWII. At its foundation is the notion that all phenomena are connected to other phenomena, creating a system (whether electrical, chemical, biological, societal, etc.), and that these systems can be linked as well. Patterns can be discovered that can aid in understanding a phenomenon and provide insight into future possibilities.
In more colloquial terms, a family therapist may look through their therapist lens and see a misbehaving child. But systems theory would encourage that therapist to "zoom out" with that lens. It may be that the troublesome behavior is a symptom of emotional or physical abuse. Further zooming out might reveal that the mother, who perpetuates that abuse, was emotionally neglected in her family of origin. And so on. If the pattern is not identified, then the chances that the child will grow up to be a neglectful or abusive partner or parent are high.
On all levels, history repeats its patterns. Or, as J. M. Barrie wrote in Peter Pan, "All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again."
One of the most popular example is when Napoleon attacked Russia, and then Hitler attacked Russia. Napoleon is known for this failure of an attack on Russia, and it is a bit surprising that Hitler would do the same thing. The thing is that they both attacked Russia when winter was coming in. The Russian army is obviously more used to the cold than the foreign armies, and in both cases, many people in the foreign armies died from the cold. So this, in my opinion, is the best example of history repeating.