We all want the global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic to be swift and painless. But history tells us that isn’t always possible.
When the world has suffered a massive shock to its system before – be that a pandemic, a war, an economic crisis – the rebuilding can take decades. There will be missteps along the way. More people will suffer.
But past recoveries can also offer us lessons about what’s possible. About the choices people make, be that politicians and their advisers, or people just trying to find their feet in a new reality.
And these moments of crisis have also provided opportunities to make a better world.
In a new six-part series called Recovery, The Anthill podcast will explore key moments of recovery from history. Each episode we’ll take one major crisis or shock and speak to a panel of leading academics who have researched its legacy.
Actually choosing which six moments to focus on was tricky. History is awash with them, some man-made, some not. And we’ve recovered – in some way or another – from most of them. So this is in no way an exhaustive list. But we’ll take you through, chronologically from the middle ages to today.
We’ll look at previous pandemics – the Black Death, the Spanish Flu. But also at rebuilding after the brutality of world war. And we’ll explore some less obvious crises – what happened after the city of Lisbon was completely destroyed in 1755 by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami and fire. And how the various countries of the former USSR recovered from the “shock therapy” that caused economic disaster in the 1990s. Then there’s the global financial crisis of 2008, whose legacy will have a massive impact on our ability to recover today.
This will not be a series about coronavirus. It’s a series about rebuilding. About what works and what doesn’t, and how our world has been shaped by big moments of crisis and the way our ancestors have reacted to them.
We’ll be drawing some parallels to what’s going on around us now, but mostly we’ll be telling the stories of past recoveries.
The first episode will go live via The Anthill Podcast channel on June 3 and then weekly for the next five weeks. You can listen on The Conversation or subscribe to The Anthill wherever you get your podcasts.
The Anthill is produced by Gemma Ware and Annabel Bligh. Sound design by Eloise Stevens.