The Uses of History in the Brexit Debate

A number of blogs have highlighted the way history has been leveraged by campaigners in the EU referendum, and Andrew Smith has written an interesting blog about the uses of the past:

The Past Speaks

My primary research interests nowadays are on how economic actors such as entrepreneurs and managers use historical ideas to make sense of the present and to plan for the future. I am, therefore, fascinated by the ways in which historical analogy is being used in the debate leading up to our referendum on EU membership. The quality of the analogic-historical reasoning on display varies enormously, of course, (yesterday David Cameron was compared to Neville Chamberlain)  .but from my point of view the interesting thing is that businesspeople are having recourse to the heuristic of historical analogy to make sense of the EU debate. I suppose it isn’t surprising that they are using historical analogy, given the degree of Knightian uncertainty that the prospect of leaving the EU has created for UK firms. For instance, if you watch this video from the Financial Times, you will note that the…

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