How should we remember the past? This has always been a hotly contested question, with massive political implications.
The politics of historical knowledge has always been the leading question of Historical Inquiry – the first year history survey module of the Humanities Programme.
Taking the Second World War as its case study the module looks at how public history and memory is constantly manipulated for political purposes. We ask students to consider what perspectives on the past need to be considered in order to fully understand and represent the past.
One way of that is to think about ‘decolonisation’ – acknowledging that in many areas of national and international history explanations of the past have been guided by ideas about race, colonialism and empire that privileged the voices and experiences of those identified as “white” and downplayed or ignored interpretations and experiences produced by people of colour – replicating the relationship of coloniser and colonised in knowledge.
The whole Historical Inquiry module builds up towards a student–led workshop on the theme of ‘Decolonising Contemporary History’. In this year’s workshop students contributed their experiences about the way history is taught in schools and how it is used in fiction and in the media.
Most crucially, they contributed their ideas about the best ways forward in decolonising public history. The final presentations were collated in a pop–up zine. The debate has started and our students know how to take part in it.