“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

Credited to Mark Twain

As I’ve been holed up in my house like everyone else, I’ve developed an insatiable appetite for documentaries. Especially documentaries about horrible diseases. Morbid I know. I watched a very good one about the Flu Epidemic of 1918 :  PBS-Influenza 1918

And one about the search for a vaccine for polio:  The Polio Crusade

And an interesting article about an ancient Greek epidemic of which I wasn’t aware:  Ancient Greek Epidemic

This Greek epidemic is assumed to have been a form of typhus, and it killed approximately 1/3 of Greek citizens. The ancient Greek historian, Thucydides, writing about the epidemic, noted that what doesn’t change is human nature; you can expect people to react in similar ways when they encounter events like those that have occurred in the past. Thucydides wrote about this epidemic because he felt the events he was living through could guide responses to similar events in future.

Oh, if only we paid closer attention to history.

He especially noted that exposure to the illness provided some kind of future immunity. “It was to be thousands of years before medical immunity was properly understood, but the historian implies that historical hindsight can itself be a kind of vaccine. History need not simply recall the horrors of the past. It can guide us towards adopting precautions, remind us that accurate observation is vital to ensure a better response in future, and reassure us that normal life will one day return.”

Perhaps, in these times, it would be good if our leaders had studied history and philosophy in addition to business, but I take comfort in the reassurance that normal life will one day return.


“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)