Do Historians Help or Hinder? Seminar by Dr Ian McBride

December 10, 2010

The first of what it is hoped will be a series of seminars on topics linked to the Decade of Commemorations, was held on November 26th at HTR. Entitled “Do Historians Help or Hinder?”, the speaker was Dr Ian McBride from the Department of History at King’s College, London. Dr McBride explained that historians were increasingly in demand from all areas of the media to explain historical events. Although they are good at explaining events and putting them into context he said, historians are not good healers because they disagree about almost everything.

He explained that there is no set historical narrative, because it is hard to step outside the community or the time we live in. Interpretations change through time, one of the examples he gave was changing views on Sir Roger Casement and his Black Diaries. Ian explained that because historians today need to publish internationally, this can help to revise the dominant narrative. Historians help us to understand the past.

The initial responses to Ian’s talk were given by Dr Laurence McKeown, an writer and playwright and former republican prisoner and Karen McCartney from the Ulster People’s College. Karen delivers the People’s History Initiative. When the discussion was opened up to the floor there was a lively debate on various topics, including the history of the ordinary man, how history is taught in schools and the difficulties and discomfort we have in dealing with very recent history.