Svenska Swedish flag


2020: Society in Crisis

Our Capacity for Adaptation and Reorientation

Wars, revolutions and pandemics are recurring themes in human history. Learning how to handle a crisis is at the heart of the human predicament.

In this anthology, twenty five world-leading scholars explore how different societies respond to such challenges. They highlight humanity’s unprecedented capacity for adaptation and reorientation. A crisis presents problems, but also opportunities.


Global Politics

Peter Frankopan: This crisis has the capacity to be apocalyptic

Professor of Global History, University of Oxford

Peter Frankopan is Professor of Global History at the University of Oxford, where he is Stavros Niarchos Foundation Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research and a senior research fellow at Worcester College. He works with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization on the future of sustainable cities and on the Belt and Road Initiative. Frankopan’s books include The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World and The Silk Roads: A New History of the World.

Helen Thompson: Geopolitics of a pandemic

Professor of Political Economy, Cambridge University

Helen Thompson is Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge University, where she is a fellow of Clare College and Deputy Head of The School of the Humanities and the Social Sciences. She contributes a fortnightly column to the New Statesman and is a regular contributor to the Talking Politics podcast. Her publications include Oil and the Western Economic Crisis.

Tim Marshall: New Turkey’s old politics

Journalist and broadcaster

Tim Marshall is a journalist and broadcaster, and a former diplomatic editor and foreign affairs editor for Sky News. He is the founder and editor of, a website dedicated to the analysis of world events. He is the author of Shadowplay: Behind the Lines and Under Fire; Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics and Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of Flags.

Jonathan Fenby: China – the great uncoupling

Chairman, the China team, TS Lombard

Jonathan Fenby is chairman of the China team at the TS Lombard research group. A former editor of the Observer and the South China Morning Post, and correspondent for The Economist and Reuters, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000 for services to journalism. An associate at the London School of Economics and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, his numerous books include Crucible: The Year that Shaped Our World.

Donald Sassoon: A world of nations and states is here to stay

Emeritus Professor of Comparative European History, Queen Mary University of London

Donald Sassoon is Emeritus Professor of Comparative European History at Queen Mary University of London. He has been a visiting professor at the Universities of Trento and Padova, senior fellow at the Remarque Institute at New York University, at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris and at the University of Queensland. His books include The Anxious Triumph: A Global History of Capitalism 1860–1914 and Morbid Symptoms: Anatomy of a World in Crisis.

Matthew Goodwin: Meet the zoomer generation

Professor of Politics, University of Kent

Matthew Goodwin is Professor of Politics at the University of Kent, and Associate Fellow at Chatham House. He is the co-editor of The New Extremism in 21st Century Britain and co-author of National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, and Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union. His latest book, This England: Nation, Identity and Belonging is due to be published in the autumn of 2021.

Philosophies of Crisis

Lawrence Freedman: Ancient lessons for modern crisis

Professor of War Studies, King’s College London

Lawrence Freedman was Professor of War Studies at King’s College London from 1982 to 2014 and vice principal from 2003 to 2013. Elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1995, he was appointed official historian of the Falklands campaign in 1997 and a member of the Privy Council of the UK in 2009, when he was called to take part in the inquiry into the Iraq War. His books include Strategy: A History and The Future of War: A History.

Jessica Frazier: Learning from Asian philosophies of rebirth

Lecturer, Oxford University and the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

Jessica Frazier is a lecturer at Oxford University and the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. She explores philosophical themes of ontology, selfhood and flourishing across cultures. She is the founding editor of the Journal of Hindu Studies, contributes to British media, and her books include Hindu Worldviews: Theories of Self, Ritual and Divinity; Categorisation in Indian Philosophy: Thinking Inside the Box and Reality, Religion, and Passion: Indian and Western Approaches in Hans-Georg Gadamer and Rupa Gosvami.

Alexander Lee: Machiavelli and the benefits of civil strife

Research fellow, University of Warwick

Alexander Lee is a research fellow at the University of Warwick and a specialist in the cultural and political history of the Renaissance in Italy. He has previously held posts at the universities of Oxford, Luxembourg and Bergamo, and writes a regular column for History Today. His publications include The Ugly Renaissance, Humanism and Empire: the imperial ideal in fourteenth-century Italy, and Machiavelli: His Life and Times.

Iskander Rehman: Why applied history matters

Senior Fellow for Strategic Studies, American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC

Iskander Rehman is the Senior Fellow for Strategic Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, in Washington DC, where he leads a research effort on applied history and grand strategy. He is currently writing a book entitled The Forgotten Virtue: Prudence, Grand Strategy and the History of Statecraft.

Culture and Crisis

Tom Holland: The empty metropolis


Tom Holland is a historian and translator. He has made films on subjects ranging from dinosaurs to the Islamic State, and presents BBC Radio 4’s Making History and the podcast The Rest Is History. He has written books on Greek, Roman and early medieval history, and his most recent, Dominion, traces the evolution of Christianity as a revolutionary force. He has translated Herodotus and Suetonius for Penguin Classics.

Andrew Graham-Dixon: Crisis and the creation of great art

Art historian, critic and broadcaster

Andrew Graham-Dixon is an art historian, critic and broadcaster. He is the author of numerous books on subjects ranging from the art of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the present day, including A History of British Art, Renaissance, Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, and Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane, which was shortlisted for the UK’s most prestigious non-fiction book award, the Samuel Johnson Prize.

Clive Aslet: The country house in decline

Journalist and author

Clive Aslet is an award-winning writer and journalist who has published over twenty books. His most recent title The Story of the Country House, is the distillation of four decades spent researching the subject. During a long association with Country Life, he was editor for thirteen years. As author of The Edwardian Country House, The American Country House, Landmarks of Britain and Villages of Britain, he is an authority on the countryside, British history and architecture and life at the turn of the twentieth century on both sides of the Atlantic. He recently became chairman of the Lutyens Trust. In 2019 Clive co-founded the publishing house Triglyph Books with the photographer Dylan Thomas. A lifelong advocate of Classicism, he helped establish the Ax:son Johnson Centre for the Study of Classical Architecture at Cambridge in 2021.

Johan Hakelius: John Hughes – making and unmaking the American dream

Journalist and author

Johan Hakelius is the political editor-in-chief of Fokus, Sweden’s leading current events weekly. He has written several books on English eccentrics and British social history. He should currently be working on his next book – tentatively on the social scene in Manhattan from the end of the Civil War to Trump – but the garden, a puppy and his first grandchild always seem to get in the way.

The Pandemic in History

Lincoln Paine: 2020 – putting our pandemic in perspective

Maritime historian

Lincoln Paine is a maritime historian, editor, teacher and curator. Paine is the author of several books on maritime history, including The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World and Down East: An Illustrated History of Maritime Maine, as well as scores of articles on a wide range of topics, including the literature of the sea, exploration, museum curatorship, decorative arts, maritime law, trade and naval history.

Hew Strachan: Counting the cost of the 1918–19 pandemic

Professor of International Relations, University of St Andrews

Sir Hew Strachan, FBA, FRSE, has been Wardlaw Professor of International Relations at the University of St Andrews since 2015. He is a life fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and an emeritus fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, where he was Chichele Professor of the History of War from 2002 to 2015. His books include The First World War, the first volume of a trilogy; Clausewitz’s On War: A Biography and The Direction of War: Contemporary Strategy in Historical Perspective.

Gillian Clark: Survival lessons from ancient Rome

Professor Emerita of Classics and Ancient History, University of Bristol

Gillian Clark is Professor Emerita of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Bristol. She sits on the editorial board of many series and the advisory council of numerous national and international organ­isations, and is a Fellow of the British Academy. Several of her papers are collected in Body and Gender, Soul and Reason in Late Antiquity, and her publications include Late Antiquity: A Very Short Introduction and Women in the Ancient World.

Medicine and Morality

Mark Honigsbaum: Challenging the ‘great reset’ theory of pandemics

Senior Lecturer in Journalism, City University of London

Mark Honigsbaum is a writer specialising in the history and science of infectious disease, and a Senior Lecturer in Journalism at City University of London. A regular contributor to the Observer and The Lancet, his books include The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria and Hubris, The Fever Trail: In Search of the Cure for Malaria, and Living with Enza: The Forgotten Story of Britain and the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918.

David Seedhouse: Covid-19 and the moral case for personal judgement

Professor of Deliberative Practice, Aston University, Birmingham

David Seedhouse is Professor of Deliberative Practice at Aston University, Birmingham and a widely read author in health philosophy, ethics and decision-making. He is also owner and creator of the Values Exchange, an online tool for reflection and debate on healthcare. He has recently published Using Personal Judgement in Nursing and Healthcare with Vanessa Peutherer, and The Case for Democracy in the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Vanessa Harding: Remembering London’s last great plague

Professor of London History at Birkbeck, University of London

Vanessa Harding is Professor of London History at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research and writing focus on the social history of early modern London, circa 1500–1700, and especially on family and household, environment, health and disease, death and burial. She is the author of The Dead and the Living in Paris and London, 1500–1670 and is currently working on a book-length study of seventeenth-century London, and developing a project to map London on the eve of the Great Fire.

Society and Leadership in Crisis

Richard Whatmore: History shows revolutions are a disaster

Professor of Modern History, University of St Andrews

Richard Whatmore is Professor of Modern History and Co-Director for the Institute of Intellectual History at the University of St Andrews.

Philip Bobbitt: A government of law

Professor of Federal Jurisprudence, Columbia University

Philip Bobbitt is the Herbert Wechsler Professor of Federal Jurisprudence at Columbia University, and Distinguished Senior Lecturer at the University of Texas. He has served in the US government during seven administrations, including in the post of senior director for strategic planning at the National Security Council. Bobbitt’s books include The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History and Impeachment: A Handbook (with Charles Black, Jr.).

Peter Burke: The consequences of the covid crisis

Professor Emeritus of Cultural History, University of Cambridge

Peter Burke was Professor Emeritus of Cultural History at the University of Cambridge from 1979 to 2004, and he remains a life fellow of Emmanuel College. He is a fellow of the British Academy, a member of the Academia Europaea, and has received honorary doctorates from the universities of Lund, Copenhagen, Bucharest, Zurich, Brussels and Oviedo. His books include A Social History of Knowledge and What is Cultural History? He is currently writing a social history of ignorance.

Graham Stewart: Continuity Thatcher – rescuing a complex leader from historical cliché

Senior Research Fellow in 20th Century British History, University of Buckingham

Graham Stewart is a Senior Research Fellow in 20th Century British History at the University of Buckingham, the political editor of The Critic, and is the official historian of The Times newspaper. He is the author of six books including Burying Caesar: Churchill, Chamberlain and the Battle for the Tory Party, and Bang! A History of Britain in the 1980s.

Adrian Wooldridge: Leadership in crisis – why the West needs Plato more than ever

Journalist and author

Adrian Wooldridge is The Economist’s political editor and writes the Bagehot column. He was educated at Oxford University, where he studied modern history at Balliol College and received a doctorate in philosophy from All Souls College. His books include The Wake-Up Call: Why the Pandemic Has Exposed the Weakness of the West, and How to Fix it, co-written with John Micklethwait.