History Repeats Itself – Meaning, Teachings and Expansion of the Idea

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History Repeats Itself – Meaning, Teachings and Expansion of the Idea

Meaning: This proverb means that events seem to replicate themselves. It could refer to human history, or to the history of a person’s life.

It does not mean that history literally repeats itself. Rather, it means that similar events seem to occur again and again.


History repeats itself – we can learn many things from this proverb. Understanding our compulsion to repeat events is the first step to changing bad habits and encouraging good ones. The basic teachings from this proverb are:

  1. Destiny: if something is meant to be it will keep on occurring.
  2. Cause and effect: the proverb encourages us to think about the effects of history.
  3. Human nature: the proverb teaches us about the patterns of human nature.
  4. Caution: the proverb cautions us to learn from history.
  5. Breaking the cycle: we can break the cycle of history if we want to.

Expansion of Idea

History provides us with records of the past. Time moves in a cycle. Many events that happen in present time are similar to what had already happened in the past. It seems as if the history is repeating itself. Whatever startling events take place on this earth is just in the process of repetition.

‘History’, in this proverb, might mean an individual’shistory or it may relate to human history. An individual may keep having similar experiences. Similarly, Great nations keep experiencing what they had experience previously.

Mark Twain proposed a modification to the proverb. He said, history doesn’t repeat itself, it rhymes. Though the superficial details might vary the nature of events, nevertheless, remains quite similar. As a matter of fact, the cycle of birth, growth and decay, which regulates our life, also regulates the human history

History could mean human history. Here, it means that each successive generation of humans keeps acting in a similar way to previous generations. Great empires which flourished in the remote past decayed and passed into oblivion. New empires arose, had their day and then ceased to exist. From the earliest civilization of Assyria and Babylon to those of Egypt, Greece and Rome in the West, and from the early Indo-Aryan civilization to the Hindu period of India History, we have almost the same story of successive rise and fall and occasional disintegration of the country into a number of principalities thus falling an easy prey to foreign invaders.

Similarly, through the inscrutable process of alternate rise and fall, the Empire of Delhi Sultanates gave way on the establishment of the great Mughal Empire. Then, slowly and gradually the country came under the sway of the British Empire. That empire again has crumbled into dust and on its ashes has emerged the free and sovereign Republic of India.

It is true that unexpected things happen sometimes in history, in the religious and cultural life and in other spheres of activities and it may mould the stereotyped life of the people in a different and unprecedented way. Still, the number of such happenings is so rare that it cannot be accepted as a universal truth so as to lessen the value of the study of history, that is the records of the past. Even in matters of social habits, dress and etiquette and in religious beliefs, people hardly go forward and we often find that history repeats itself.

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