The Use of Historical Analogy in the 2017 Parliamentary Debates on the Future of Post-Brexit Commonwealth Trade

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  • Mark Eaton
  • Andrew Smith, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

This study examines how (and how well) politicians in the UK Parliament use their historical knowledge in debates about intra–Commonwealth trade following Brexit. Based on a rigorous analysis of 2 days of parliamentary debates in the House of Commons and House of Lords in early 2017, one of our conclusions is that UK parliamentarians used their historical knowledge in cross-domain (the practice of applying historical knowledge to a field of human activity that is very different from the original historical circumstances) ways. Our study thus develops our understanding of the role of analogical reasoning in the cognition of policymakers. On the other hand, although Conservative speakers did not refer to a wide range of economic or trade historical topics, they did use their historical knowledge from other domains in the promotion of deepening intra–Commonwealth ties as an alternative to the Europe-dominated focus of British international policies since 1973. In these ways, our study thus adds to our knowledge of how policymakers use historical knowledge to understand complex issues such as Brexit.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Studies Review
Pages (from-to)591-610
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

    Research areas

  • Brexit, Commonwealth, UK parliament, trade policy, uses of history, POLICY, DECISION-MAKING, MEMORY, POLITICS

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