Historic recurrence

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Mark Twain: "a favorite theory of mine [is] that no occurrence is sole and solitary, but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often."[1]

Historic recurrence is the repetition of similar events in history. The concept of historic recurrence has variously been applied to the overall history of the world (e.g., to the rises and falls of empires), to repetitive patterns in the history of a given polity, and to any two specific events which bear a striking similarity.


  • "For what has been said is just repetition, what has been said has been said."
  • Nullumst iam dictum quod non dictum sit prius. (In fact, nothing is said that has not been said before.)
  • History is a gallery of pictures in which there are many copies and few originals.
  • History, we know, is apt to repeat herself, and to foist very old incidents upon us with only a slight change of costume.
  • History never repeats itself, but the Kaleidoscopic combinations of the pictured present often seem to be constructed of the broken fragments of antique legends. (more recently misquoted as a Mark Twain saying: History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.)
  • History exhibits truths... when [the facts] are seen not merely as they follow, but as they correspond... as they are paralleled.
  • Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.
  • Politics is mostly non-rational; the world is suffering from some kind of mental disorder which must be diagnosed before it can be cured.
  • [The Russian Revolution] was anything but a new start... it is a monotonous repetition of the eternal revolution.
  • There really are broad patterns in history, and the search for them is as fascinating as it is productive.
  • Do we progress, in an upwards fashion, or merely ride the cycles of war and peace, boom and bust?
    • Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope, Canongate, 2006, p. 322.
  • There are obvious parallels between human life cycles and those of ruling groups.
  • There were revolutions in France... then in Russia, in China... it was as if the world had a sickness that it kept inflicting on itself.
  • ... the cycles of history. The study of history allows you to see [them].
  • We Americans thought we were an exception to history.... The Vietnam War proved we were not an exception to history.
  • Putin, Merkel and Trump are empty vessels into which the blind forces of history have flowed. Trump doesn't even understand the currents he has been channeling.

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  1. Mark Twain, The Jumping Frog: In English, Then in French, and Then Clawed Back into a Civilized Language Once More by Patient, Unremunerated Toil, illustrated by F. Strothman, New York and London, Harper & Brothers, Publishers, MCMIII, p. 64.