“Remember the past”: Santayana, but never Churchill
I am a librarian and I have a patron who inquired about famous quote by George Santayana (in The Life of Reason, 1905): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We know the quote was originally Santayana’s, but our patron would like to know when Mr. Churchill first used it. Unfortunately, my colleague and I have not been able to locate the the time or context of quote as it relates to Mr. Churchill. —D.J., New York
I searched Churchill’s 15 million published words (books, articles, speeches, private papers) but could find no occurrence of Santayana’s remark. Nothing comes up, not even key phrases (“remember the past”…”condemned to repeat it”). So I’m inclined to believe that Churchill never repeated Santayana’s remark in so many words.
When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure. There is nothing new in the story. It is as old as the Sibylline books. It falls into that long, dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong—these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.
—House of Commons, 2 May 1935, after the Stresa Conference, in which Britain, France and Italy agreed—futilely—to maintain the independence of Austria. (Churchill By Himself, 490).