Lotte Jensen in NTR programme De kennis van Nu about the Corona Crisis: 'History repeats itself'

The corona crisis seems to be over, but the next crisis or disaster could strike again. Do we learn from the past or do we keep reinventing the wheel? In an episode of television programme De kennis van Nu (Today's knowledge), historian and philosopher Lotte Jensen (Radboud Institute for Culture and History, RICH) explains how history can give us guidance in understanding a crisis in the present.

At the start of the corona crisis, Lotte Jensen and her fellow historians wrote a plea in the Dutch newspaper NRC, in which they argued in favour of historians serving on the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), the Dutch advisory body that advises on dealing with an epidemic. 'What we saw was that the tendency was to approach the crisis purely from a virological point of view. While if you look at epidemics from the past you see that it is always about more than just the medical crisis, it also becomes a social crisis', says Lotte Jensen in NTR programme De kennis van nu. 'We were surprised that the OMT limited itself to a medical view, while we know from history that a broad view is necessary.'

According to Jensen, things happened during the corona crisis that we could have seen coming based on history. History shows, for example, that if a measure is experienced as unjust, it leads to protest. During the cholera epidemic in the 19th century, large public protests also broke out after the 1849 carnival in Amsterdam was banned because of the danger of contamination. 'There is nothing new under the sun, history repeats itself. That is why it is so important to revalue history as a science. Because by looking back, you can discern patterns that provide a basis for understanding the current crisis.'

Watch the entire episode (in Dutch) of De Kennis van Nu here

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