Everyman His Own Philosopher of History: Notions of Historical Process in the Study and Practice of Foreign Policy (Summer 2022)




Ehrhardt, Andrew

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Texas National Security Review


The renewed interest in the utility of historical study — sometimes referred to as “applied history” — is a growing trend in both Europe and the United States. But while an invaluable foundation for understanding political, economic, and social issues, the movement often lacks a deeper examination into the way that individuals regularly gather, arrange, interpret, and incorporate historical facts into their daily existence. Every man and woman, whether consciously or unconsciously, engages in these activities, giving rise to a notion, unique unto themselves, of the way that history unfolds. Such historical constructs — sometimes known as “speculative philosophy of history” — represent a more powerful intellectual force than is often recognized, and it should be interrogated more in the future, especially as it relates to foreign policymaking. For scholars and practitioners of foreign policy, in particular, there is something to be gained by embracing what is here termed “applied historicism.” At its root is a wariness of large generalizations in history, including various philosophies of history, and a reliance on approaches to historical study that value the uniqueness of individuals, societies, and phenomena across time and space.


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