Quotes for World History Class Unit-By-Unit

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I use quotes in my classes all the time. One quote can be a warm-up or exit ticket or a group of quotes can be the meat of the lesson. Quotes help to bring “old dead guys” to life and humanize them. They also challenge students to understand the vernacular of a time period. They can be inciteful, deceitful, powerful, unlawful, peaceful, dreadful… you get the idea. I LOVE me a good quote!

Following is a compilation of quotes throughout global history. I wrote a separate article if you need American History quotes. They are broken down by unit in chronological order.


Ancient Egypt

“All strange and terrible events welcome. but comforts we despise.” Cleopatra

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Maimonides

“I wonder if our names determine our destiny, or if destiny leads us to choose certain names.” Nefertiti

“Never leave fish to find fish.” Moses

Ancient China

” have collected all the writings of the Empire and burnt those which were of no use.” Emperor Qin Shi Huang

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

“He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.” Lao Tzu

“Your greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius


“The first duty of government is to protect the powerless from the powerful.” Hammurabi

“If a builder builds a house and the house falls and kills someone in the house the owners may kill the builder.Hammurabi

“Should you see the light of your future, within the shadows of your present, the resilience of life dancing over vast deserts of death,
Witness if you so shall, the majesty of Creation.
The connectedness of All was and always will be.
Entanglement? No. We call it Love.” Sargon the Great

“The rest of those living I destroyed…and their carved-up bodies I fed to dogs, to pigs, to wolves, to eagles, to birds of the heavens, to fishes of the deep.”  King Ashurbanipal, referring to conquered peoples

Ancient Greece

“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.” Socrates

“As empty vessels make the loudest sound, so they that have least with are the greatest babblers.” Plato

“The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” Aristotle

“Whatever possession we gain by our sword cannot be sure or lasting, but the love gained by kindness and moderation is certain and durable.” Alexander the Great

Roman Empire

“If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it.” Julius Caesar

“Such as are thy habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of thy soul-for the soul is dyed by the thoughts. Dye it then, with a continuous series of such thoughts as these-that where a man can live, there if he will, he can also live well.” Marc Antony

“If we could survive without a wife, citizens of Rome, all of us would do without that nuisance; but since nature has so decreed that we cannot manage comfortably with them, nor live in any way without them, we must plan for our lasting preservation rather than for our temporary pleasure.” Augustus

“”An emperor’s an entertainer, an empire a super-show” Nero

Middle Ages

“Right action is better than knowledge; but in order to do what is right, we must know what is right.” Charlemagne

“European merchants supply the best weaponry, contributing to their own defeat.” Saladin

“We are all leaders-whether we want to be or not. There is always someone we are influencing-either leading them to good-or away from good.” Leif Erickson

“Life yields only to be conqueror. Never accept what can be gained by giving in.” William the Conqueror


“He who does not punish evil commands it to be done.” Leonardo di Vinci

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo

“It is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams… Through it, God will spread His Word. A spring of truth shall flow from it: like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men” Johannes Gutenberg

“Alas, how can the poor souls live in Concord when you preachers sow amongst them in your sermons debate and discord? They look to you for light and you bring them darkness. Amend these crimes, I exhort you, and set forth God’s word truly, both by true preaching and giving a good example, or else, I, whom God has appointed his vicar and high minister here, will see these divisions extinct, and these enormities corrected.” King Henry VIII

Scientific Revolution

To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge. Nicolaus Copernicus

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo

This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. Isaac Newton

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. Rene Descartes


The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom. John Locke

“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, tool.” Voltaire

“There is as yet no liberty if the power of judging be not separated from legislative power and the executive power” Baron de Montesquieu

“During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.” Thomas Hobbes

Age of Absolutism

“Every time I bestow a vacant office I make a hundred discontented persons and one ingrate.” Louis XIV

“The laws ought to be so framed as to secure the safety of every citizen as much as possible. … Political liberty does not consist in the notion that a man may do whatever he pleases; liberty is the right to do whatsoever the laws allow. … The equality of the citizens consists in that they should all be subject to the same laws.” Catherine the Great

“Members of the guilds purveying for our household must shave their beards and mustaches. But, if it happens that some of them do not wish to shave their beards and mustaches, let a yearly tax be collected from such persons” Peter the Great

“God, who has given me so many Kingdoms to govern, has not given me a son fit to govern them.”  Philip II of Spain

French Revolution

“Any law which violates the inalienable rights of man is essentially unjust and tyrannical; it is not a law at all.” Robespierre

“Until you spread your wings you’ll have no idea how far you can fly.” Napoleon

“We made our entrance into Paris. As for honors, we received all that we could possibly imagine; but they, though very well in their way, were not what touched me most. What was really affecting was the tenderness and earnestness of the poor people, who, in spite of the taxes with which they are overwhelmed, were transported with joy at seeing us.” Marie Antoinette

“I die innocent of all the crimes laid to my charge; I pardon those who have occasioned my death; and I pray to God that the blood you are going to shed may never be visited on France.” King Louis XVI

Latin American Revolutions

“When tyranny becomes law, rebellion is a right.” Simon Bolivar

“It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.”  Emiliano Zapata

“Action must be taken at once; there is no time to be lost; we shall yet see the oppressors’ yoke broken and the fragments scattered on the ground.” Miguel Hildago

“In overthrowing me, you have done no more than cut down the tree trunk of the Black Liberty in St. Domingue it will spring back from the roots, for they are numerous and deep”. Toussaint L’Ouverture


“A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Africa is still lying ready for us it is our duty to take it. It is our duty to seize every opportunity of acquiring more territory and we should keep this one idea steadily before our eyes that more territory simply means more of the Anglo-Saxon race more of the best the most human, most honorable race the world possesses.” Cecil Rhodes

“Take up the White Man’s burden, send forth the best ye breed, go send your sons to exile to serve your captives’ need.” Rudyard Kipling (Excerpt from ‘White Man’s Burden’)

“I think it quite possible that I could have dispersed the crowd without firing but they would have come back again and laughed, and I would have made, what I consider, a fool of myself.” British General Reginald Dyer (referring to the Amritsar Massacre)

Feudal Japan

“The strong manly ones in life are those who understand the meaning of the word patience. Patience means restraining one’s inclinations. There are seven emotions: joy, anger, anxiety, adoration, grief, fear, and hate, and if a man does not give way to these he can be called patient. I am not as strong as I might be, but I have long known and practiced patience. And if my descendants wish to be as I am, they must study patience.” Leyasu Tokugawa

“Mental bearing (calmness), not skill, is the sign of a matured samurai. A Samurai therefore should neither be pompous nor arrogant.”  Tsukahara Bokuden, Samurai

“Knowledge shall be sought for all over the world and thus shall be strengthened the foundation of the imperial polity” Emperor Meiji

“I have directed Commodore Perry to assure your imperial majesty that I entertain the kindest feelings toward your majesty’s person and government, and that I have no other object in sending him to Japan but to propose to your imperial majesty that the United States and Japan should live in friendship and have commercial intercourse with each other.” President Fillmore (letter to Emperor, 1853)

Russian Revolution

“I am not ready to be a tsar. I know nothing of the business of ruling.” Czar Nicholas II

“The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.” Leon Trotsky

“It is true that liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed.” Vladimir Lenin

“Death solves all problems — no man, no problem.” Joseph Stalin

World War I

“Our German Fatherland to which I hope will be granted… to become in the future as closely united, as powerful, and as authoritative as once the Roman world-empire was, and that, just as in the old times they said, Civis romanus sum, hereafter, at some time in the future, they will say, I am a German citizen.” Kaiser Wilhelm II

“The enemy is at the gates of the city. The day is perhaps not far off when our breasts will be the last defense for our country. We are the children of the Revolution. Let us take inspiration from our fathers of 1792, and, like them, we will conquer.” George Clemenceau

 “We’re telling lies; we know we’re telling lies; we don’t tell the public the truth, that we’re losing more officers than the Germans, and that it’s impossible to get through on the Western Front.” Lord Rothermere

“Rats came up from the canal, fed on the plentiful corpses, and multiplied exceedingly. While I stayed here with the Welch, a new officer joined the company and, in token of welcome, was given a dug-out containing a spring-bed. When he turned in that night he heard a scuffling, shone his torch on the bed, and found two rats on his blanket tussling for the possession of a severed hand.”

“Rats came up from the canal, fed on the plentiful corpses, and multiplied exceedingly. While I stayed here with the Welch, a new officer joined the company and, in token of welcome, was given a dug-out containing a spring-bed. When he turned in that night he heard a scuffling, shone his torch on the bed, and found two rats on his blanket tussling for the possession of a severed hand.” Captain Robert Graves

Rise of Fascism

“It is the State which educates its citizens in civic virtue, gives them a consciousness of their mission and welds them into unity.” Benito Mussolini

“State ownership! It leads only to absurd and monstrous conclusions; state ownership means state monopoly, concentrated in the hands of one party and its adherents, and that state brings only ruin and bankruptcy to all.” Benito Mussolini

“To conquer a nation first disarm its citizens.” Adolf Hitler

“National Socialism is what Marxism might have been if it could have its absurd and artificial ties with the democratic order.” Adolf Hitler

World War II

“Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.” Winston Churchill

“We secured peace for our country for one and a half years, as well as an opportunity of preparing our forces for defense if fascist Germany risked attacking our country in defiance of the pact. This was a definite gain to our country and a loss for fascist Germany.” Joseph Stalin

 “We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia.” Emperor Hirohito

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” General Dwight D. Eisenhower

South Africa (Apartheid)

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Nelson Mandela

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Desmond Tutu

“It was fortunate in looking back for South Africa and its entire people that Mandela and I found it possible to work together even though big strains developed between us from time to time.” F.W. de Klerk

“Not only will we survive (economic sanctions), we will emerge stronger on the other side.” P.W. Botha

Cold War

“When it is a question of fighting against imperialism we can state with conviction that we are all Stalinists. We can take pride that we have taken part in the fight for the advance of our great cause against our enemies. From that point of view I am proud that we are Stalinists.” Nikita Khrushchev

“If at any time the Communist build-up in Cuba were to endanger or interfere with our security in any way . . . or if Cuba should ever . . . become an offensive military base of significant capacity for the Soviet Union, then this country will do whatever must be done to protect its own security and that of its allies.” President John F. Kennedy

“The main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.” George Kennan, American Diplomat

“We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” President Lyndon Johnson


“For years, Africa has been the footstool of colonialism and imperialism, exploitation and degradation. … Those days are gone and gone forever, and now I, an African, stand before this august Assembly of the United Nations and speak with a voice of peace and freedom, proclaiming to the world the
dawn of a new era … There are now 22 of us and there are yet more to come.” President Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana)

“Until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; until the basic human rights are guaranteed to all, without regard to race … the African continent will not know peace.” Emperor Haile Selassie (Ethiopia)

“A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new; when an age ends; and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance.” Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru


“I find that because of modern technological evolution and our global economy, and as a result of the great increase in population, our world has greatly changed: it has become much smaller. However, our perceptions have not evolved at the same pace; we continue to cling to old national demarcations and the old feelings of ‘us’ and ‘them’.” Dalai Lama

“I think there’s a lot of merit in an international economy and global markets, but they’re not sufficient because markets don’t look after social needs.” George Soros, Chairman of Soros Fund Management

“Henry Ford was right. A prosperous economy requires that workers be able to buy the products that they produce. This is as true in a global economy as a national one.” John J. Sweeney, Former President of the AFL-CIO

“Our global economy is out of control and performing contrary to basic principles of market economics.” David Korten, Economist and Former Professor at the Harvard School of Business

Climate Change

“We don’t have time to sit on our hands as our planet burns. For young people, climate change is bigger than election or re-election. It’s life or death.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congresswoman

“By polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions and destroying our biodiversity, we are killing our planet. Let us face it, there is no planet B.” Emmanuel Macron, President of France

“I hold a vision of this blue green planet, safe and in balance. At the end of the Fossil Fuel Era, we are emerging to a new reality. We are ready to make the next leap – as momentous as abolishing slavery or giving women the vote.” Elizabeth May, Leader of Green Party of Canada

“One can see from space how the human race has changed the Earth. Nearly all of the available land has been cleared of forest and is now used for agriculture or urban development. The polar icecaps are shrinking and the desert areas are increasing. At night, the Earth is no longer dark, but large areas are lit up. All of this is evidence that human exploitation of the planet is reaching a critical limit. But human demands and expectations are ever-increasing. We cannot continue to pollute the atmosphere, poison the ocean and exhaust the land. There isn’t any more available.” Stephen Hawking, Physicist

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.

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