Quotes from The History Boys

Alan Bennett ·  109 pages

Rating: (7K votes)


“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“How do I define history? It's just one fucking thing after another”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“One of the hardest things for boys to learn is that a teacher is human. One of the hardest things for a teacher to learn is not to try and tell them.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“I'm not "happy" but I'm not unhappy about it.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys



“Why do we not care to acknowledge them? The cattle, the body count. We still don't like to admit the war was even partly our fault because so many of our people died. A photograph on every mantlepiece. And all this mourning has veiled the truth. It's not so much lest we forget, as lest we remember. Because you should realise the Cenotaph and the Last Post and all that stuff is concerned, there's no better way of forgetting something than by commemorating it.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“I don't always understand poetry!'

'You don't always understand it? Timms, I never understand it. But learn it now, know it now and you will understand it...whenever.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“Clichés can be quite fun. That's how they got to be clichés.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“It's subjunctive history. You know, the subjunctive? The mood used when something may or may not have happened. When it is imagined.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“Cloisters, ancient libraries ... I was confusing learning with the smell of cold stone.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys



“History is just one fucking thing after another.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“All the effort went into getting there and then I had nothing left. I thought I'd got somewhere, then I found I had to go on.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“[talking about the Holocaust]
'But to put something in context is a step towards saying it can be understood and that it can be explained. And if it can be explained that it can be explained away.'

'But this is History. Distance yourselves. Our perspective on the past alters. Looking back, immediately in front of us is dead ground. We don't see it, and because we don't see it this means that there is no period so remote as the recent past. And one of the historian's jobs is to anticipate what our perspective of that period will be... even on the Holocaust.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“The transmission of knowledge is in itself an erotic act.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“God doesn't do notes, either. Did Jesus Christ say, "Can I be excused the Crucifixion?" No!”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys



“HEADMASTER: I was a geographer. I went to Hull.
IRWIN: Oh. Larkin.
HEADMASTER: Everybody says that. 'Hull? Oh, Larkin.' I don't know about the poetry...as I say, I was a geographer...but as a librarian he was pitiless. The Himmler of the Accessions Desk. And now, we're told, women in droves.
Art. They get away with murder.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“IRWIN: At the time of the Reformation there were fourteen foreskins of Christ preserved, but it was thought that the church of St John Lateran in Rome had the authentic prepuce.

DAKIN: Don't think we're shocked by your mention of the word 'foreskin', sir.

CROWTHER: No, sir. Some of us even have them.

LOCKWOOD: Not Posner, though, sir. Posner's like, you know, Jewish.
It's one of several things Posner doesn't have.

(Posner mouths 'fuck off.')”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“History nowadays is not a matter of conviction.
It’s a performance. It’s entertainment. And if it isn’t, make it so.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“Dakin: The more you read, though, the more you'll see that literature is actually about losers.
Scripps: No.
Dakin: It's consolation. All literature is consolation.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


“One of the hardest things for boys to learn is that a teacher is human. One of the hardest things for a teacher to learn is not to try to tell them.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys



“Pass the parcel. That's sometimes all you can do. Take it, feel it, and pass it on. Not for me, not for you, but for someone, somewhere, one day. Pass it on, boys. That's the game I want you to learn. Pass it on.”
― Alan Bennett, quote from The History Boys


About the author

Alan Bennett
Born place: in Leeds, Yorkshire, The United Kingdom
Born date May 9, 1934
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