How should historians engage with current events?

In the closing hours of Tuesday November 7, 2016 when it was all but inevitable that Donald Trump would be the next President of the United States, it felt as though the world noticeably changed. Though Trump would not officially be president for another two months the weight of the election result had instant impact. I expected outcry across social media platforms as they frequently give outlet for rage and was not disappointment. However I was surprised to see several people invoking history to justify their anger. Friends and strangers pointed back to past events and said, “See! this happened before and the outcome is catastrophic.” To debunk a popular adage (not among historians) history most certainly does not repeat itself. Trends do resurface but the context they come back in is different then the one they appeared in before. The mass interest in history got me thinking about what actually is the role of history and historians, its disciples, in current events and should it have a role at all.

I confess that I do not know the answer but feel that it should be out there. To that end I asked my colleagues what they thought. How should historians and budding historians interact with current events?

 

Brandon Blakeslee