“The value of diplomatic history in a changing world”, Halvard Leira (NUPI, Norway)

There has never been a better time to read diplomatic history than right now. The topic is covered in broader, deeper, and more engaging ways than it has ever been before. The intellectual value of diplomatic history in giving an increased appreciation of the past is thus undeniable. However, when discussing the “value” of history more generally, one typically alludes to its ability to inform decision- makers or its capacity to increase understanding in the broader public. The question is the extent to which the past speaks to the present, one that seems particularly pressing for a world in perceived upheaval. The answers provided here are ambiguous. On one hand, there are many reasons for being cautious about the capacity to learn from history and, even if learning is possible, to learn the appropriate lessons. On the other, decision- makers from the lowest to the highest level rely on their understanding of history to make decisions every day. Finally, there is the potential that historical analogies –or even myths –based on diplomatic history have had for political purposes.

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