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The Power of the Past - a conversation with Hal Brands and Jeremi Suri

History rarely provides ironclad laws or lessons that can be taken from one episode and applied to another. But it can play a powerful role in determining which policies are chosen and, when used well, can inspire effective statecraft. 

Too often, however, historians and policymakers talk past each other. The scholar fails to see the pressures of the present, and the policymaker has no time to contemplate the past.

“The longer you can look back, the further you can look forward.” – Winston Churchill

In their new edited book - The Power of the Past - Hal Brands and Jeremi Suri address this issue by assembling a team of leading scholars and policymakers to explore the history-policy nexus. They examine issues ranging from the uses and misuses of the Vietnam analogy, to the ways that lessons from nineteenth-century humanitarian interventions can inform current debates on the responsibility to protect, to the role of historical thinking in the US administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Hal Brands teaches in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. He is the author of three books on U.S. foreign policy and grand strategy, most recently What Good Is Grand Strategy? Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush (2014).

Jeremi Suri is the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is a professor in the Department of History and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. He is the author or editor of six previous books on international affairs, including Foreign Policy Breakthroughs: Cases in Successful Diplomacy (coedited with Robert Hutchings) and Liberty’s Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama.


Dr Barbara Zanchetta

Senior Researcher, Graduate Institute


Prof. Hal Brands

Associate Professor, Duke University

Prof. Jeremi Suri

Professor, University of Texas at Austin

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