‘THOSE THAT DENY THEIR HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT!’ So Tweeted the 45th President of the United States to his 80 million followers in June, as American streets once again were transformed into spaces of protest. It turns out that the President prefers one particular route between the American past and present, and has vowed to defend both it and its symbols against all comers. The once unifying power of the national narrative is now one of many of points of sharp and often violent division.
This is also true of the United Kingdom as it seeks to balance its historical self-image with the realities of its colonizing past. Central to all of this is the question of how we rewrite and debate our constructions of the past, a collective human activity as hardwired into our cultures as music, dance, or art.
is Professor of History at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is the author and editor of many essays and books on history and historical thought in early modern Britain, including the prize-winning The Social Circulation of the Past
. Woolf has also served as general editor of the 5 volume Oxford History of Historical Writing
, and has published The Global History of History
All the while, he has held a number of senior administrative posts, most recently serving a ten year term as the 20th Principal and Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University. His A Concise History of History: Global Historiography from Antiquity to the Present
(Cambridge University Press) provides a cogent and compact survey of historical practice from ancient times to the present. Its point of departure is that those of us in ‘the west’ could do with some consideration of historical traditions from other parts of the globe.
Charles Prior is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hull (UK), who has written on the politics of religion in early modern Britain, and whose work has recently expanded to the intersection of colonial, indigenous, and imperial politics in early America. He co-leads the Treatied Spaces Research Cluster.