Denouncing racism in football, PM David Cameron recently declared, 'we will not let recent events drag us back to the bad old days of the past,' exemplifying the trend to view the past from a position of moral superiority. From revelations about child abuse in the 1970s to concern about 'old-fashioned' patriotism and 'dead, white European males' being taught in schools, previous decades are routinely dismissed for their toxic legacy. Are we reinterpreting past experiences through the prism of present day preoccupations, obscuring understanding the past in its own terms? Why do we increasingly look to the past for meaning?
Claire Fox is the director of the Institute of Ideas (IoI), which she established to create a public space where ideas can be contested without constraint.
Fox initiated the IoI while co-publisher of the current affairs journal LM magazine (formerly Living Marxism). The IoI has since worked with a variety of prestigious institutions in Britain and abroad.
Fox is a panelist on BBC Radio 4's "The Moral Maze" and is regularly invited to comment on developments in culture, education and the media on TV and radio. Fox writes regularly for national newspapers and a range of specialist journals. Fox has a monthly column in the Municipal Journal.
author, nearly 30 books, including 20 historical novels, including A Question of Loyalties and Dark Summer in Bordeaux; columnist, Spectator
John Waters: Filmmaker, actor, writer, and visual artist best known for his cult films including Hairspray, Cry-Baby, and Pink Flamingos.
Professor Sir Simon Wessely
head, department of psychological medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London