From ‘Back to the future? Public history and the new academic citizen’

Public History Weekly 

BLOGJOURNAL FOR HISTORY AND CIVICS EDUCATION: ‘We want to build bridges between research and application, politics and science, and the school and the university.’


…for a new academic citizenship?

What it means to be an academic is changing, as are the expectations that our students, our institutions and the wider world have of us. 

Professional history’s rich heritage of ‘public purpose’ – which public historians are uncovering – is one of the important resources on which the discipline can draw in reimagining academic citizenship.

Another is historians’ alertness to the problematic aspects of ‘citizenship’ in general. For example,

  • we’ve queried the nation as the natural source of human belonging;
  • we’ve challenged (and historicised) borders;
  • we’ve explored, alongside others, the intensely political nexus of education and national identity.

If we now take on the challenge of recasting academic citizenship, we won’t be coming intellectually empty-handed.

A third, and vital, resource is the culture and ethos of public history, a more recent manifestation of the idea that the past has important uses in society.

Public history brings an openness to the value of different perspectives.  Its practitioners rarely work alone, but through collaboration and conversation: with other disciplines and professionals; with our partners, networks and audiences.  This inclination for cooperation is surely an asset in a world in which academic citizenship can no longer be delimited by campus boundaries.

Now is the time for all those who practise and care about history to mobilise their resources to develop new models of academic citizenship: to make the past work for the future.

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