• David de Souza

The Lessons Of History Summary

Updated: Jun 15


This one, the short book contains more wisdom and worldly life lessons than all history textbooks I encountered in school. This book should be required reading for voting in an election.

Want to dig deeper than the core principles? Check out:



Core Principles:


I have summarised 'The Lessons of History', distilling the book into 8 core principles:

  1. History is rich. A case for anything can be made through selection bias.

  2. Nature does not agree with our definitions of 'good' or 'bad'. Nature defines good as what survives and bad as which becomes extinct.

  3. Every vice was once a virtue. For example: aggressiveness, brutality, greed and sexual readiness were an effective virtue for hunter-gatherers. During the agricultural revolution, new virtues becoming helpful and previous virtues became vices. Industriousness was now more advantageous than bravery and thrift more profitable than violence.

  4. Do not judge and discount the customs which have been developed through experimentation, wisdom, and evolution, over generations. The conservative resisting change is just as valuable as the liberal who proposes change. New ideas should be heard but they should also be tested before being allowed to progress. It is good that the old resist the young and that the young nudge the old. This tension of sexes, race, and class comes with a creative strength, development and movement of all.

  5. War is a constant of history. In the past 3,421 years, only 268 have been without war.

  6. War is natural selection. The ultimate form of human competition. It is a source of ideas, inventions, institutions and nations.

  7. Violent revolutions do not redistribute wealth they destroy it. Wealth and money is based on trust in people and institutions, rather than the intrinsic value. Land may be redistributed but over time, because of inequalities a new minority will form. The only true revolution is the enlightenment of the mind and improvement of character.

  8. Disparity of wealth is due to disparity of ability. Democracy accelerates the disparity. For example: America had relative equality before 1776 but since then the country has seen an influx of physical, mental and economics differentiation. The result is a disparity greater than Imperial Rome.



Remember These Core Principles:

I've condensed the core principles into an image, making memorization easier. Use this image, it's caption, and Quizlet as a memory aid to help you remember the 80/20 from this book:



Discount the disparity of good & evil and vice & virtue. Select war, war, or revolution.

Q: What does 'Discount' refer to?

A: Do not discount the customs which have been developed through experimentation, wisdom, and evolution, over generations. The conservative resisting change is just as valuable as the liberal who proposes change. New ideas should be heard but they should also be tested before being allowed to progress. It is good that the old resist the young and that the young nudge the old. This tension of sexes, race, and class comes with a creative strength, development and movement of all.


Q: What does 'disparity' refer to?

A: Disparity of wealth is due to disparity of ability. Democracy accelerates the disparity.


Q: What does 'good & evil' refer to?

A: Nature does not agree with our definitions of 'good' or 'bad'. Nature defines good as what survives and bad as which becomes extinct.


Q: What does 'vice and virtue' refer to?

A: Every vice was once a virtue


Q: What does 'select' refer to?

A: History is rich. A case for anything can be made through selection bias.


Q: What does 'war' refer to?

A1: War is a constant of history. In the past 3,421 years, only 268 have been without war.

A2: War is natural selection. The ultimate form of human competition. It is a source of ideas, inventions, institutions and nations.


Q: What does 'revolution' refer to?

A: Violent revolutions do not redistribute wealth they destroy it. Wealth and money is based on trust in people and institutions, rather than the intrinsic value. Land may be redistributed but over time, because of inequalities a new minority will form. The only true revolution is the enlightenment of the mind and the improvement of character.


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The 80/20 of Worldly Wisdom: