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History, Education, and Global Affairs

International Relations scholars have emphasized the significance of historical lessons in shaping foreign policy decisions. These lessons provide context for decision-making, determine perceptions of threats and responses, and influence policymakers. However, limited research exists on why specific lessons are learned while others are not, and why some lessons become deeply ingrained in a political culture. This content focuses on why certain lessons are appealing and proposes seven propositions based on psychology and political science to explain this phenomenon. Examples are provided to support these propositions, along with insights on how historical lessons enter political discourse.

Historical Lessons

In her work, Margaret MacMillan humorously notes that individuals often look to history for guidance, even when they believe they are innovating. Cognitive psychologists have found that people tend to attribute success to personal qualities and failure to external factors. Historical lessons are usually derived from past events and are often conveyed through the interpretations of political actors and historians, thus shaping people’s views of the world. Lessons derived from history are essential for policymaking and can lead to divergent conclusions based on how events are interpreted.

Further Reading on E-International Relations

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