Learning from History

 If you are interested in learning lessons from history, this website is worth a look. History and Policy is an international network of historians with the aim of “bringing (high-quality) history into the policy making arena”.

The network, which has been going since 2002, claims history is not given as much prominence in policy making decisions as social and natural sciences, and aims to change that. It is run by four eminent historians, has an administrative and external relations team and an advisory board including MPs and cabinet ministers, journalists, newspaper editors and others from the private and public spheres.

Here are some discussions they have contributed to in the media:

The Death of Bin Laden: the long history of displaying the bodies of the defeated. For example the displaying of Richard III’s corpse in 1485 to the piece of bloodstained coat from James IV of Scotland, sent by Catherine of Aragon to Henry VIII to prove his death in 1514.

The Royal Wedding (naturally) and on a more sombre note, the reason why terrorists groups have always found the British Royal family an attractive target throughout history.

Domestic politics have been examined with historical perspectives on the Alterative voting system recently put to the vote in the UK, plus the problems and advantages of coalition governments.

There is also something about how history should be taught in schools, perhaps not surprisingly.

My favourite part is called “Bad History”, a series from 2009 that pulls apart a number of historical “myths”. For example…

  • Gervase Phillips (Manchester Metropolitan University) questions the Bush administration’s use of history to legitimise the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Read the article: The end of history? Not quite.
  • Niall MacKenzie (University of Cambridge) explodes the myth that laissez-faire policies led to economic success in 1980s Britain. Read the article: Minding its business.
  • John Langton (St Johns College, Oxford) demolishes Prince Charles’ portrayal of Henry VIII as an early-modern eco-warrior. Read the article: As green as he was compassionate.

This is a great initiative and appears to be having some impact.  I feel slightly guilty not to have found it before now!

Have a good weekend!


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