A billboard with an image of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is surrounded by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) flags as supporters gather to celebrate election results outside the BJP headquarters in Mumbai in 2019.

The fake history of civilisational states

So-called civilisational states, including Russia, China and India, invoke fake histories to justify and buttress their contemporary political settlements. But those who cannot let go of the past are always at risk of finding themselves imprisoned by it.

A member of staff removes a file from a depository at The National Archives, London.

The intelligent use of history – what is the past good for?

In times of global uncertainty and upheaval, many people look back to an imaginary golden age of simplicity and stability, or seek to blame a past individual or policy for current ills. Danger lies in both these coping strategies. We need to make intelligent use of history.

A protester attempts to cover the Hong Kong emblem with a British colonial flag after they broke into the government headquarters in Hong Kong in June 2019, the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China.

The flag wars are here to stay

Flags have become synonymous with nationhood, character, spirit, and power. In an age of renewed nationalism, their power should not be underestimated.

Engelsberg Ideas is the home to great writing from the world’s leading thinkers on history and culture, featuring essays, historical portraits and regular podcasts. Engelsberg Ideas is free to read, providing access to excellence. It is published by the Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation.

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