The Importance of a Historical Perspective in Policy Making: Making Space for Common Ground

Villanova faculty and students meeting with the AWM President, President Elect, and Senator Casey.

On Friday afternoon October 13th, the Villanova on the Hill Cohort gathered at the Business Roundtable and interacted with a panel of Historians working in the Federal Government hosted by Villanova’s newly established LePage Center. This panel included Thomas Faith, Historian in the Department of State, Clara Altman, Federal Judicial History and Daniel Holt, an assistant historian in the Senate Historical Office.


During this discussion, I and the other cohort members learned about the internal and external roles as historians in the Federal government. Internally, historians within the federal government are focused on preserving records within their specific branches of government. For example, the Judiciary Historian, Clara Altman, discussed the importance of both preserving each case the Supreme Court examines as well as the extensive records generated by individual Judges. Externally, historians answer questions about policy through the historical context to citizens, reporters, and congressmen.


The historians primarily emphasized the importance of uFirst Row: Shantel Silva, Megan Donofrio, Dr. Kristin Lauter, Dr. Beth Malmskog, Dr. Evelyn Sander. Second Row: Madison Davis, Katie Robbins, Alexandra Golia, Madison Taylor, Dr. Ami Radunskaya, Dr. Betty Mayfield, Dr. Talitha Washington. Third Row: Tasha Boland, Pat Saulino, Kristen Austin, Dr. Karoline Pershell, Dr. Michelle Snider, Dr. Katie Haymaker, Dr. Adele Merritt. nderstanding policy issues in a historical context. This means that the issues we face now are rooted in past institutional interactions. Engaging in current policy changes and institutional implications with a historical context helps to identify what the policy problem is and how American institutions have shaped specific policies. Therefore, an understanding policy with a historical context broadens the discussion around specific policies and helps policymakers find common ground.


Also, each historian discussed the importance ofAlexandra Golia, Megan Donofrio, Representative Jackie Speier, Dr. Talitha Washington, Katie Robbins, Madison Taylor, Dr. Michelle Snider, Kristen Austin, Pat Saulino.encouraging individual senators, judges and government officials not to make judgments about what is and is not historically important. This specific aspect of historical work in the federal government was primarily emphasized because it is impossible to know what will be historically significant in the future! What might be extremely significant in contemporary American culture may not be as important in the future, and vice versa. Ultimately, the historical panel helped to expand the way I think about legislative policy and understand the interrelation of culture, institutions, and history that influences contemporary social issues and policies.