Why should an MBA student study history?

By Claudia Pumarejo, Global MBA 2013-2014, Mexico

What do Yemen, Vietnam and Germany have in common? They used to be two countries and then became only one. The opposite happened to North and South Korea, Czech Republic and Slovakia and Sudan and South Sudan. What is known today as the European Union was a cluster of countries with different languages, cultures and currencies. What was known as the Soviet Union back in the days is now over 15 independent nations. Now we are closely watching the development of the Crimea crisis in an era when no one thought that the borders of Europe would be changing once again.

All these political changes have taken place over the course of history, but World War II was a real watershed moment. In our Geopolitics class, taken during our stay at ESSEC’s Singapore campus with Professor C├ędomir Nestorovic, we reflected on the past and its current day implications. Is the Second World War completely over? How has the post-war period differed in Asia and Europe and what are the causes for such diverse reconciliation processes in these two continents?

Did you know that a Harvard scholar had foreseen 9/11 more than a decade before? In “The Clash of Civilizations,” Samuel Huntington names the Islamic world and the Sino Civilization as the biggest future threats to the West. We may or may not agree with his conclusions, but his theories have had an undeniable impact on US foreign policy.

Professor Nestorovic is a reputable expert in history and international relations. His main focus of research is Islamic Businesses, for instance, Halal Food and Islamic Banking. We were very amazed by Professor Nestorovic’s knowledge, sometimes he knew more about our own countries we did!

Being such a diverse class, we had the chance to learn about some of the laws and regulations of countries across the globe. He made us think over issues such as how one obtains or loses one’s nationality. Do you know if your country is secular, theocratic or somewhere in the middle? Leaning towards what end?

Some people may ask: why do you learn about history, politics and geography in business school? It’s not only to develop our personal knowledge and culture, it is also very important for understanding how the world in general, and the business world in particular, works.

It was very interesting to realize how contemporary some of these issues are. Since we were in Asia, some of us had the chance to visit one of the four communist countries on the continent: China, Vietnam, North Korea and Laos (there are only five communist countries in the world today; four of them are here in Asia, the other one is Cuba).

Personally, I had the chance to visit Malacca, Malaysia. This place is very distinct. We wanted to go for its lively ambiance and its particular colonial history that made it UNESCO World Heritage Site. What we didn’t know - and finally learned in class - is that it was also famous for its pirates and the fact that nearly 90% of the world’s gas supply travels through the narrow Malacca Strait.

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