Tuesday 6 October, 7.00pm until 9.00pm, Notre Dame University, London
Venue: University of Notre Dame London Centre, 1 Suffolk Street, London SW1 4HG
Tickets: £7.50 (£5 concessions) per person. Tickets are available from the Academy of Ideas website.
Throughout the West, people with different ethnic and cultural heritages increasingly live side by side. Much has been written about President Obama’s family heritage, and in an address to the Turkish Parliament he noted that many Americans are either Muslim or ‘have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim majority country. I know, because I am one of them’. During Britain’s ‘Who Do We Think We Are? week this year, Sir Keith Ajegbo urged schools across the country to undertake ‘investigations and celebrations by schools of pupils’ histories and their community’s roots and of the national and global links they can make’.
Using history as a lens through which to examine our current identities, however, inevitably changes the character of history as an academic subject. Instead of the disinterested pursuit of historical fact, history becomes a reflection of today’s world and a means of contextualising our contemporary political concerns. Indeed in university departments on both sides of the Atlantic, history is often approached in terms of the experience of different groups rather than the universal significance of historical events, with history segmented into ‘women’s history’ or ‘minority history’.
Does history as a lesson in diversity undermine or enrich the academic teaching of the subject? Has history ever been a disinterested matter, the oft-quoted warning being that ‘history is written by the victors’? Does going back to our roots really help either social cohesion or historical understanding? Or have we become so obsessed with our own identities that the defining question of our time is not ‘What are we going to do?’ but ‘Who do you think you are?’ Does ‘history-through-identity’ simply provide a more comprehensive narrative of historical and social progression and change, with those written out of history given acknowledgement at last? Or are identity politics undermining the possibility of universal values and a human history we can all relate to? If we believe that our histories made us, have we given up on making history ourselves?
novelist and cultural critic; author, award-winning Some Kind of Black and My Once Upon A Time
creative consultant; former arts director, British Council (worldwide); author, Encouraging Innovation in Organisations
award-winning historian; author, Rubicon: the triumph and tragedy of the Roman Republic; winner, 2007 Classical Association Prize
|Professor Greg Kucich|
professor of English; director, University of Notre Dame (USA) London Program; author, Nineteenth-Century Worlds: global formations past and present
|Dr Sean Lang|
senior lecturer in history, Anglia Ruskin University; director, Better History Forum
writer; critic; political strategist and policy advisor; co-founder, Stonewall
|Dr Mark Taylor|
vice principal, East London Science School; London convenor, IoI Education Forum
Dr Shirley Dent
communications specialist (currently working with the British Veterinary Association media team); editor, tlfw.co.uk; author, Radical Blake
Yale has acted cravenly over images of Muhammad.Oliver Kamm, The Times, 29 September 2009
Writing history is largely a matter of what filters you use. Different-coloured filters bring out different patterns.Bernard Porter, Times Literary Supplement, 23 September 2009
Once upon a time, loving your country enough that you were prepared to die for it was held to be the highest virtue.Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail, 14 September 2009
The story of how the distinctive culture of Europe - restless, creative and dynamic - was forged from out of the convulsions of these extraordinary times is as fascinating and as momentous as any in history.
Tom Holland, Abacus, 2 July 2009
Who Do We Think We Are? Week, a national educational programme that engages primary and secondary school teachers in the exploration of identity, diversity and citizenship with children and young people, launches on Monday 22 June, in schools and local communities.Press Release, WDWTWA, 20 June 2009
From the Balkans to Tibet, if there is one thing that unites all cultures it is a tendency to distort the past for their own ends, as this lively study showsTom Holland, Guardian, 26 April 2009
Margaret MacMillan, Profile Books Ltd, 16 April 2009
Around 440 BC...Herodotus embarked upon a project...to explain what would now be termedTom Holland, Globe and Mail, 1 April 2009
The 20th Century brought revolutionary changes to our world and our lives: the human population of the world tripled, space travel became reality, two world wars and a host of other conflicts were fought, and huge advances in science, technology and communication resulted in the globalised world we know today.
Sean Lang, John Wiley, 28 March 2008
The problem with the teaching of the past today is that it makes universalism history.Neil Davenport, spiked, 4 June 2006
Culture, not race, is becoming the main barrier for modern migrantsDiran Adebayo, Guardian, 20 January 2004
The narration [of history] inspired me with strange feelings. . . . -The Creature (Frankenstein)Greg Kucich, Prometheus Unplugged, 13 September 1997