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Posts Tagged ‘Active History’

We have started a new website called activehistory.ca to help connect historians with the public, policy makers and the media.  This is a part of an effort to facilitate and disseminate the ideas developed at the  Active History conference. Please visit and send us your feedback by email (jimclifford (at) activehistory.ca) or in person at the Canadian Historical Association meeting in Ottawa.  We are looking for historians to join our network and to submit short paper for the website.

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We have organised a round table for this the CHA in Ottawa this Spring.  The round table is scheduled on Wednesday, May 27 at 8:30am.  The presenters include Kieth Jamieson, a Cultural Consultant, Adjunct Professor and Curator from the Mohawk of the Six Nations of the Grand River, Robin Elliott, Excutive Director of Murmur Toronto, Geoffrey Reaume, Associate Professor, York University, Jim Clifford, PhD Candidate, York University and Thomas Peace, PhD Candidate, York University.

Tom and I hope the round table will both discuss the idea of active history developed at our conference in September and begin a conversation about where we can take active history in the future.  Please attend the round table if you are in Ottawa for the CHA.


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I recently stumbled across a sheet of paper I picket up at a conference in London during the summer of 2007.  The paper advertised the History and Policy website: http://www.historyandpolicy.org

I think this group in the UK has a lot of parallels with the ideas presented at the Active History conference in September 2008.  Moreover, they have developed a web resource to facilitate active or applied history that we need to consider developing in Canada.

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Margaret Conrad’s 2007 CHA Presidential address seems like a good place to begin a discussion on what is Active History. Feel free to leave your comments.

“In a context in which history is increasingly commodity and spectacle, it becomes necessary for academic historians to generate a dialogue with the public about the uses and abuses of the past. This is not always a pleasant conversation, but it is one of the obligations of scholars in a democratic society who have the privilege of dealing in the coin of knowledge and ideas. As former CHA president Jean-Claude Robert argued persuasively in 2003, it is incumbent upon us as university professors also to be public intellectuals.(ft.37) We have been too long focused on honing our professionalism and too little involved in the wider world where many people have a curiosity about the past and a passion for historical research equivalent to our own. What is unworthy, for example, about being a genealogist, an amateur historian, or what academics sneeringly call an “antiquarian”? Surely, we all work in the same corner of the knowledge vineyard and have a lot to learn from each other. American historian Carl Becker made this point in his much-cited article, “Everyman His Own Historian,” published in 1932,(ft.38) in which he reversed the charge of relevance. Academic historians, he argued, needed to adapt their knowledge to the necessities of the present rather than “cultivate a species of dry professional arrogance growing out of the thin soil of antiquarian research.” Touché.” (Margaret Conrad, Public History and its Discontents or History in the Age of Wikipedia, 11-12)

For the full-text see: http://cha-shc.ca/english/info/Conrad_CHA_Address.pdf

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I was taking a quick look through the back issues of the Radical History Review today and came across an older issue with a great forum called: Reflections on Radical History (Winter 2001). Those of you at a university should be able to access the forum through your libraries. This forum is similar to a recent issue of Left History (Vol. 11, no. 1, 2006) that asked the question “What is Left History?”. We are hoping to start a similar discussion on this website about what is Active History or what is a history for the future. If you have some thoughts about what active history is or what it should be please send them to us through the Organizers page. This blog should provide an opportunity to both start the discussion in the months leading up to the conference and to allow those who cannot make it to Toronto in September to contribute.

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Glendon College, York University, September 27-28th 2008

Call for Presentations

Active History: History for the Future is a two-day symposium designed to bring together university-based and community-based historians interested in assessing the ways in which historians engage with communities beyond the academy. Given that historians are also inevitably community members, it is important to consider not only the ways in which our work is taken up by the media, the courts, and so on, but also how we engage with and are responsible to communities in our research. How do, and how can, historical investigations of the past transform both historians and communities in the present and for the future?

The organizers define active history variously as history that listens and is responsive; history that will make a tangible difference in people’s lives; history that makes an intervention and is transformative to both practitioners and communities. We seek a practice of history that emphasizes collegiality, builds community among active historians and other members of communities, and recognizes the public responsibilities of the historian.

The purpose of Active History: History for the Future is to make connections and to foster the development of working relationships among people doing active history within and between the many historical subfields. In this spirit, the symposium will provide an opportunity for graduate students and junior scholars interested in pursuing historical projects that will make an imprint beyond the academy to connect with and learn from colleagues who have been engaged in such historical pursuits for a long time.

(more…)

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