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British Academy chief executive calls for government historical adviser

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The chief executive of the British Academy, Alun Evans, has called for the government to draw more on historical advice from experts.

Calling for a more systematic approach to historical advice in government, similar to the role of chief scientific adviser, Evans said that the turnover of civil servants meant that institutional memory risked being lost in government. 

His remarks were covered in The Times and on Radio 5Live.

Learning lessons from history was particularly important in a post-Brexit world, he said.

“If you want to understand the big question of the day, there’s a strong case for every government department to have a source of historical advice, a chief historical adviser,” Evans said.

“One of the problems with government departments at the moment is the lack of institutional memory…there are fewer civil servants who are in the job for a long time. Too often people don’t think about how much they can learn from the past.”

The British Academy works closely with government and Whitehall to make use of the expertise of its fellowship, for example through its series of Brexit briefings.

A former senior civil servant, Alun Evans was Director of the Scotland Office and worked as Head of Strategic Communications at 10 Downing Street.