IDEAS

Rear View Mirror: Has the future ever looked like the past?

It's tempting to think that in order to comprehend the future, we need to know the past, that there are always lessons in history. But is that true anymore? And has the future ever looked like the past? Sailing in the 21st century, perhaps we are in uncharted waters.
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It's tempting to think that in order to comprehend the future, we need to know the past, that there are always lessons in history. But is that true anymore? And has the future ever looked like the past? Sailing in the 21st century, perhaps we are in uncharted waters. A discussion from the Stratford Festival, featuring historian Margaret MacMillan, former politician Bob Rae and journalist Karin Wells.



 

"History is just one darned thing after another." The great historian Arnold Toynbee supposedly said that, and it's a good joke. Certainly it's a joke that generations of students have appreciated -- when you're mired in learning about the French settlement of Lower Canada and trying to remember all those generals, or studying the exact order in which the European nations went to war in 1914, you're forgiven for asking: why does all this matter?


"Folks on the ground, people to whom history "happens", want to learn from what has happened, want to learn from their own history, want to put events on the table, and call upon others to help them do something about it."--  Karin Wells
 

Why does history matter? The conventional reason we're given is that in order to comprehend the future, we need to know the past, that there are lessons in history -- that the mistakes of the past can teach us what to avoid in the future, that unbridled political power leads to dictatorship, that war is a bad way to settle things. But does the past really have anything to teach us -- has the future ever looked like the past?


Guests in this episode:

** This episode was produced by Philip Coulter. It was recorded at the the Stratford Festival, thanks to Keira Loughran, Dian Marie Bridge, David Campbell, Ann Swerdfager and Antoni Cimolino.

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