Historian Niall Ferguson Leads Inaugural Tagliaferri Dean’s Distinguished Lecture

July 24, 2017  | 1 min read

On March 29 Scottish historian and Harvard University history professor Niall Ferguson presented “Why Leaders of the Future Need to Study the Past: The Case for Applied History” at the inaugural lecture of the School of Public Policy’s Patricia Tagliaferri Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series, recently established with major support from regent Gus Tagliaferri (MBA ’74, PKE 11).

While most graduate policy programs focus on the quantitative side of public policy, the School of Public Policy has understood from its founding that public leaders must consider the array of the social sciences in formulating sustainable public policy. This includes the study of history, and in this lecture, Ferguson made the compelling argument that domestic and international policy failures have been founded on a misreading—if not complete ignorance—of history.

How can leaders “think historically” when making decisions? Should the president have a “Council of Historical Advisers?” Ferguson explored these and other important questions as he examined whether those who “don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”