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Post-modernism and recent critical theory has sought to deconstruct the role of particular ‘Great Traditions’ and ‘Grand Narratives’ as privileged accounts of world affairs, contemporary and historical. In spite of this, such narratives, even if poorly understood, remain at the heart of much public debate and continue to shape national and global policies. These traditions, linked to elements of national identity, are often deployed to support a putative ‘grand narrative’, especially for civilizational complexes or rising powers. The viability, flexibility and reflective self-examination offered by such narratives, however, are not guaranteed by current patterns of knowledge production. It is the interaction between ‘great’ and alternative traditions that shapes a more inclusive ‘grand narrative’, refreshed to differing degrees in successive generations. Aspects of these grand narratives are mobilised in assessing or suggesting ‘grand strategies’ for ancient empires and modern states.