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Sometimes it’s good to take a little distance.
As we begin the week that formally ushers in an era in American politics that few saw coming and many regard as little short of catastrophic, we turn to the eminent intellectual historian Quentin Skinner, Barber Beaumont Professor of Humanities at Queen Mary University of London for some much-needed perspective.
Not, as it happens, to try to understand how we got here, for Quentin will be the first to tell you that he is not that sort of historian.
“I’m very interested in the history of moral and political philosophy, but I’m not interested in the history because it’s what we talk about now.
“I believe that the sensibility of the historian is to try to study the past on its own terms, insofar as we can manage. If we do that, then what we find is that in our modern culture there are many paths not taken.
“We tend to write history as the history of the winners. We write the history of wars as the history of the winners, but we also write the history of our culture as the history of the winners. But did the winners always deserve to win?” (more…)