Historic recurrence

repetition of similar events in history

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.

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]


  • The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
  • Nullumst iam dictum quod non dictum sit prius. (In fact, nothing is said that has not been said before.)
  • What experience and history teach is this — that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.
  • 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.
  • [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?
  • 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.

See also



  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.
  2. as quoted in Dolack T. (2014) "Lyric Ventriloquism and the Dialogic Translations of Pasternak, Mandelstam and Celan", in Scanlon M., Engbers C. (eds) Poetry and Dialogism, Palgrave Macmillan, London, doi:10.1057/9781137401281_4
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