Statecraft, Decision-Making, and the Varieties of Historical Experience: A Taxonomy

Nov 11, 2013

The Journal of Strategic Studies published an article by Professor Inboden that constructs a taxonomy of the various ways that national security policy-makers attempt to use history. It identifies four types of history: experience, memory, tradition, and study.

It then defines and describes three categories of how history is used in national security policy: predictive, prescriptive, and existential. Each category is distilled further into specific manifestations. The article agrees with existing scholarship that policy-makers often misuse history, but argues that nevertheless policy-makers engage with history in more diverse and complex ways than are commonly understood. Thus before scholars attempt to critique and improve the manner in which policy-makers use history, we should first employ a more sophisticated understanding of the multiple ways that policy-makers approach history in the first place.