"The best history, Foster told me, is written when we understand the past in the light of a future that never happened. But it’s much harder to write that way, because the narrative is so complex and contingent.
What was difficult but thrilling about Foster’s history was that it seemed to be saying: at any moment, it could have been, could be, different. Outcomes weren’t inevitable; history wasn’t about manifest destinies but unexpected and unforeseen futures. What happened next took place because of choices people made, people without the information we have today and with information perhaps now lost. History wasn’t the runaway train on which we all sat like helpless, terrified children. This different view of history quivered with possibilities—some good, some bad, some seized, others overlooked—but all alive and human.
Think about what happens when you apply that mind-set to the future: at any moment, it could be different. Outcomes aren’t inevitable. What happens next is a choice.
Knowing that history doesn’t repeat itself is what makes it useful. We may glean what appear to be themes—humiliation provokes tyranny, for example—that make us pay attention to new information we might otherwise ignore or marginalize.
History doesn’t repeat itself because we keep changing and it keeps changing us. It can’t offer recipes but it can provide raw material with which to construct fresh combinations, drawn from where we have been, where we are today, and where we wish to be tomorrow. That it offers neither inevitability nor guarantees isn’t its weakness but its greatest power."
Trechos retirados de "Uncharted" de Margaret Heffernan.