Introduction, by Matthew Kerry
Historians are often uncomfortable with dealing with the recent past. They are perhaps even more wary about using the past to look towards the future. In a recent talk (full video below) organised by the Department of History and the Modern History Group at the University of Sheffield, however, columnist and associate editor of The Guardian Seumas Milne provided a stimulating interpretation and summary of the last 10 years of world history.
Presenting his new book, The Revenge of History, Milne offered an optimistic reading of recent world history despite the current context of crisis. He explained the genealogy of the present economic and political situation of the world, identifying several key processes and their effects: the ‘War on Terror’, the discrediting of the neoliberal model, the rise of China, the wave of progressive governments in Latin America and the uprisings of the Arab Spring.
The current crisis is a moment of flux, Milne argues; we are on the threshold of change, and the course of the coming years will be determined by the ideas and actions shaped by this context of crisis.
As any historian knows, the paths of history are winding and never fail to surprise, yet it seems clear that many of the issues raised, such as about power, the role and nature of the state and the articulation of alternatives to neoliberalism, will be key to understanding future developments.
[Seumas Milne, ‘The Revenge of History’, University of Sheffield, 13 March 2013]
Matthew Kerry is a PhD student at the University of Sheffield and one of the co-ordinators of the Modern History Group.