Doomed to Repeat: The Lessons of History We’ve Failed to Learn

Edited by Bill Fawcett. Morrow, $13.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-206906-1
The weight of history hangs heavy as Fawcett (How to Lose a Battle) examines a slew of today’s social and economic issues in light of their prior manifestations. In a range of insightful and accessible essays, the author dwells on everything from why Afghanistan is easy to invade but impossible to hold, to the dangers of inflation, millennia of terrorism, and the rise and fall of the middle class. Of special note is his lengthy and foreboding comparison of America to Rome, and his examination of how superpower nations inevitably collapse ends on a surprisingly hopeful note. The choice of topics is somewhat imbalanced: of fourteen essays, six are concerned with economic issues, while Afghanistan, Egypt, Britain, and sub-Saharan Africa each get a chapter, and though the writing sometimes lapses into a dry, academic tone, the material is primarily aimed at the casual reader, making this something of a primer on pressing current events and their historical precedents. The underlying message—that “we need to learn from the past to solve today’s problems”—is an optimistic cliché by this point, but it’s sobering to consider how we have yet to take it seriously. Fawcett’s entertaining and educational collection makes it clear it’s high time we listen—and listen closely—to history. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/21/2013
Release date: 03/01/2013
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