Historiography: Bending the arc of history

By taking a rational, global overview of the past, historians can better understand the challenges facing humanity, says Paul Dukes.

At the beginning of this year, the Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced that it had detected ‘signs of a growing political will to tackle the two gravest threats to civilisation – the terror of nuclear weapons and runaway climate change – sufficient to move their Doomsday Clock back from five to six minutes before the fatal hour. For the first time ever, they asserted, ‘industrialised and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable’. And for the first time since atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, they claimed, ‘leaders of nuclear weapons states are cooperating to reduce vastly their arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb-making material’. Thus, ‘we are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons’.

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