Australia's Rural Reconstruction Commission was established as a key element in its preparations for post-war reconstruction policy making. During the Forties, the Commission undertook the most comprehensive inquiry ever conducted into Australia's rural sector, publishing ten reports containing 330 recommendations on rural production and resource management, rural commodity marketing and rural lifestyles (Whitford & Boadle, 2008). In contrast with earlier writing about the Commission, the present article focuses on the Commission's process to examine its extensive and wide ranging use of historical analysis to shape recommendations for public policy making. Findings reveal the Rural Reconstruction Commission's venture serves both as a model of the usefulness in 'applied history' for providing guidance for the restructuring of Australian rural industries and demonstrates how history can be used to identify past mistakes in a rigorous, non-judgemental fashion. In concluding, we argue no subsequent Australian inquiry has drawn so extensively on history or used it so explicitly in public policy making to date.