Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers

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Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers

By Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May
Free Press, 1986
329 pp. $19.95

For generations Americans have described and deplored the ignorance of history displayed by policymakers or, what is worse, the misuse of historical analogies. Since the 1950s Professors Neustadt and May have been working individually through their writing and consulting on this subject; in the past decade they have been collaborators in a course at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government focusing explicitly on "using history." This excellent book is a product of that course: case histories from both domestic and foreign policy areas and a set of precepts-what to ask about history and how to ask it. Professional historians, enjoying the luxury of unhurried reflection, might say that the book's "method" is no more than a systematic and common-sense statement of the obvious-but the authors demonstrate that the "obvious" has too often been ignored, with unfortunate results.

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