The UK House of Commons' Foreign Affairs Committee this week published evidence submitted by H&P's director Dr Andrew Blick. The Committee's aim in calling for evidence was to scrutinise direct foreign-policy relationships between the UK and autocracies and the ways in which autocracies interact with the rules-based international system. Andrew Blick's submission starts from the principle that a historical understanding of how autocracies have moved towards democracy in the past is an important factor in negotiating current relationships - and that a key example is the development of UK democracy itself.
There was never a precise and agreed model of the form UK democracy should take. Those who helped bring it about were not necessarily even fully committed to democracy as we understand it. Efforts to promote reform within autocratic states should avoid being excessively prescriptive, and build on existing elements as far as is possible.
The International Network of History and Policy is in a great position to contribute to policy thinking in this area, as it has the potential to help historians pull together examples and approaches from around the world.
The purpose of INHAP is to share good practice and to promote the value of history to public policy formation internationally. One area in which history can usefully be applied is to matters of transition away from autocracy. This evidence submission is therefore intended as a contribution in this field.
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H&P is an expanding Partnership based at King's College London and the University of Cambridge, and additionally supported by the University of Bristol, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Leeds, the Open University, and the University of Sheffield.
We are the only project in the UK providing access to an international network of more than 500 historians with a broad range of expertise. H&P offers a range of resources for historians, policy makers and journalists.