How Can We Use (but Not Abuse) History?

Richard Haass and Margaret MacMillan, one of the world’s foremost historians, discuss how best to apply history to better understand current global challenges, including the erosion of democracy, the rise of China, and Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

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  • Richard Haass
    President Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations
Episode Guests
  • Margaret MacMillan
    Professor, University of Toronto

Show Notes

About This Episode


It is often said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. But history is open to a wide variety of interpretations, and historical precedents can be used to justify wise and unwise policies alike. In this episode of Nine Questions for the World, Richard Haass sits down with one of the world’s foremost historians, Margaret MacMillan, to examine different ways to apply history to better understand current global challenges, including the erosion of democracy, the rise of China, and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. 


This podcast series was originally presented as “The 21st Century World: Big Challenges and Big Ideas,” an event series in celebration of CFR’s centennial. This episode is based on a live event that took place on April 13, 2021.


See the corresponding video here.


Dig Deeper


From Margaret MacMillan


Why the U.S. Has Spent 200 Years Flip-Flopping Between Isolationism and Engagement,” History


The big idea: is world government possible?,” The Guardian


Which Past Is Prologue?,” Foreign Affairs


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Claire Felter, “The COVID-19 Vaccination Challenge: Lessons From History


James Lindsay, “Lessons From the U.S. Entry Into World War I


Living in History,” Why It Matters 


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John Jeffries Martin, “Why study history? Because it can save us from democratic collapse.,” Washington Post


Lucian Staiano-Daniels, “When Germany Was China,” Foreign Policy

Michael Schuman, “China’s Inexorable Rise to Superpower Is History Repeating Itself,” Bloomberg Businessweek


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