This booklet illustrates how research and scholarship in the social sciences and humanities, nurtured and led by Britain’s world-class universities, contribute to the cultural, social and economic health, wealth and reputation of the UK. It shows the public value of the country’s investment in these subjects.
The humanities explore what it means to be human: the words, ideas, narratives and the art and artefacts that help us make sense of our lives and the world we live in; how we have created it, and are created by it. The social sciences seek to explore, through observation and reflection, the processes that govern the behaviour of individuals and groups. Together, they help us to understand ourselves, our society and our place in the world.
As the UK’s national academy for these fields of study, and a major source of funding for them, the British Academy has a particular responsibility to champion the value they deliver, and achieve recognition for it. This booklet provides examples and case studies of how that investment helps maintain the UK’s position, in challenging times, as one of the major knowledge-based economies. As its title suggests, there is special importance at such times in understanding and learning from the past, and in rigorously analysing the present, if we are to continue to innovate and build for the future of our society.