Initiative on History and Public Policy

The Initiative on History and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, housed at the Ash Center, brings together scholars, practitioners, students, and policymakers with the goal of linking our interpretations of the past with our approach to contemporary policy issues. The Initiative will draw on the expertise and leadership of faculty and practitioners at HKS who work and teach at the intersection of history and public policy. 

The principal idea behind the Initiative is that decision-making in rational human affairs necessarily involves an estimate about the future derived from the experience of the past. As a consequence, history can and should serve as a basis for effective, conscientious policymaking, and in turn, effective, conscientious policymaking should be based on historical awareness and reflection.

The Initiative will serve as a meeting point between scholars—whose cutting-edge historical work is informed by (or seeks to influence) ongoing policy debates—and practitioners eager to draw on historical knowledge and expertise to promote successful policy outcomes. Members of and participants in the Initiative will bring historical perspective to bear on the work and challenges facing policy makers.

The Initiative also will focus on supporting and disseminating historical research that addresses the promotion of the public good; encouraging current and future policymakers and leaders to draw on history as a guide, whether as warning, example, or inspiration; and influencing the field of public policy by making history a central part of the educational mission of HKS.