What is ‘History of the Present’?
Following current events is like whitewater rafting: you're moving so fast you don't have time to look around and see where you are. 'History of the Present' aims to help us see where we're coming from, where we are, and maybe even make an intelligent guess about where we're heading.
The phrase 'History of the Present' comes from a review the American diplomat and thinker George Kennan wrote of one of my earliest books, The Uses of Adversity, in 1989. It's stuck, and I like it.
What will you find here?
I write about Europe, mainly, but also about the US (where I live part of the year), and relations with other great powers such as China, India and Russia – as well as the other enormous challenges of our time. You'll find
· my essays and commentaries
· links to my other writing
· video and audio of my talks, debates etc
· a weekly catch-up, quick comments on recent developments, unvarnished thoughts and questions to (and, if you like, from) you.
... all of this designed to help us jointly understand the troubled waters we are being propelled through, like whitewater rafters.
I've just finished a book called Homelands: A Personal History of Europe, which is both a personal account and an interpretation of the history of Europe since 1945, and particularly since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. I call it post-war Europe and post-Wall Europe. I had to stop the narrative part in September 2022, because that's when the book went to press.
This Substack aims to continue the story, for example about the war in Ukraine, nationalist populism from Italy to Hungary, the consequences of Brexit, the crisis of democracy in the United States, the future of Russia and much more. It will become a personal (and obviously partial) record of what happened, how we reacted to it at the time, what we think might happen next - and what we should do about it.
If I can carry it on for a number of years, it may yet feed into a sequel to Homelands, later in the decade. But it will stand for itself, as an ongoing record and conversation.
By subscribing, you sign up for a free stream of content. At some point, I may invite you to become a paid subscriber, giving you access to my weekly round-up, unvarnished thoughts on work in progress, some questions to (and, if you like, from) you, and the chance to take part directly in the conversation.
All best wishes
PS A little about me
I have been chronicling the history of Europe for nearly a half-century. I work in two great universities, Oxford and Stanford, and love good scholarship, but I also like to go and see for myself, on the ground, as journalists do. Homelands: A Personal History of Europe is the latest example of this unusual blend. My earlier books include The Magic Lantern, my eyewitness account of the velvet revolutions of 1989; The File, my investigation of my Stasi file, also confronting the people who informed on me; History of the Present and Facts are Subversive. Other books, earlier essays,commentaries and lectures, and more biographical details are on www.timothygartonash.com.