Antedating Quote "history is written by the victor" (1919)

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Tue Dec 15 10:36:12 UTC 2009

Quoting Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>:

> YBQ has listed under Modern Proverbs (pg 527) the saying "History is
> written by the survivors" and mentions the variants "History is
> written by the winners" and "History is written by the victors".
> The YBQ citation is dated 1931. Here we present a 1919 citation
> written by a German Admiral after the WWI defeat. The context
> indicates that the saying is already known in Germany.
> Citation: 1919, My Memoirs Volume I by Grand Admiral Von Tirpitz, page
> 254, Dodd, Mead, and Co., New York.
> … it could be taken as a proof of the saying that history is written
> by the victor …
> Here is a more of the context:
> THERE are many who declare that the German Empire would have been able
> to obtain a proper friendly relationship with England, and that it was
> only neglect on the part of German policy, and particularly the
> building of our fleet, that destroyed this prospect. If ever this idea
> were to establish itself in German minds, it could be taken as a proof
> of the saying that history is written by the victor; and in this
> present case the vanquished would be cheating in order to be able to
> pay allegiance to the Anglo-Saxon hegemony in its historical
> conscience.
> The ADS list archive has a 2004 post about this quote that contains
> some later citations.
> The "Quote Verifier" by Ralph Keyes discusses the expression and
> contains some later citations.
> Encarta Book of Quotations has a 1972 citation spoken by Alex Haley.
> I could not find the quote at Popik's website.
> Garson

Related (unconfirmed) uses:

Historic fancies‎ - Page 307
George Sydney Smythe  1844
Vanquished — his history written by the victors — Robespierre has left a

The conspiracy of Gianluigi Fieschi: or, Genoa in the sixteenth century‎ -
Page xxiii
Emanuele Celesia, David H. Wheeler -  1866 -
... falsehoods so misrepresented events as to render history nearly
... courtly and salaried historians — history written by the victors.

Medical history from the earliest times: a popular history of the healing art‎
- Page 133
Edward Theodore Withington  1894 -
The history of the struggle has been written by the victors, who declare that
the iconoclast emperors delighted in destroying monasteries and burning ...

A standard history of Kansas and Kansans‎ - Page 355
William Elsey Connelley -1918 -
In Kansas the South lost, and the history of the Territory and the State has
been written by the victors — those founding a Free State through much ..

Bonnie Scotland: and what we owe her‎ - Page 61
William Elliot Griffis -  1916
... when success is won ! With the multitude, the end ever justifies
the means.
The accepted history of almost all wars is that written by the victors. ...

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society -

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