On the Spot: Archie Brown

History has taught me that even ‘unreformable’ systems can be reformed or dismantled from within.

Interior of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Michael D Beckwith/Wiki Commons.

Why are you a historian of the Soviet Union?

Because Leonard Schapiro put the idea in my head.

What’s the most important lesson history has taught you?

That even ‘unreformable’ systems can be reformed or dismantled from within. 

Which history book has had the greatest influence on you?

John Millar’s The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks (1779).

What book in your field should everyone read?

Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan’s Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation (1996).

Which moment would you most like to go back to?

1988-89, when there was still a chance that a transformed Soviet state would become part of a unified Europe.

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