The relationship between historical research and future thinking
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 00:59 by Sebastian Howe
This thesis explores the relationship between historical thinking and thinking about the future. We argue that despite methodological differences between History and Futures Studies, there is great potential for collaboration. The thesis begins by proposing the ‘History-Futures Framework’, which is a schematic that connects the two disciplines. This schematic reveals that there are three main ways scholars think about the future: by responding to concerns about the future, by envisaging the future, and by attempting to influence the future. We then examine historical thinkers who have either opposed or endorsed thinking about the future. Our findings suggest that despite a dominant attitude within History that historians should not engage in future-thought, some significant historical thinkers have held the opposite attitude. Finally, we use three World Environmental History books as case studies of a historical genre, which we argue is particularly well suited to future-thought. We conclude that by enlarging the spatial, temporal, and disciplinary scopes of historical thinking, historians are better positioned to respond to, envisage, and influence the future.