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Futures of History

Seminar Series

The Centre for History and Public Pasts organises a theory and cake seminar series called The Futures of History. There are two papers per semester and these are usually held on a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon.

Papers focus on questions of historical theory, historiography or the philosophy of history.  Papers are about 40 minutes in length and are followed by questions, discussion and home-made cake and tea. The venue is usually the Senior Common Room, St Mary’s University.

Forthcoming Papers

If you are interested in giving a paper please get in touch with the directors Mark Donnelly or Claire Norton.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the seminars and attendance is free. If you have any questions please get in touch with the co-directors or

Past Papers

Two papers on War, Memory and Heritage

Date: May 2015
Andy Pearce (Institute of Education) and Helen Bendon (Middlesex University)

Reanimating the author?: Biography and Biographical Criticism Now

Date: April 2015
Liz Oakley-Brown (Lancaster University)

Berlin’s Invisible Omelets: Human Nature and the Before Now

Date: March 2015
Stephen Rainey (St Mary’s University, Twickenham)

Round table discussion on the future of historical narratives

Date: December 2014

“What is really excellent about historians’ historical representations is that they always fail. There is no possibility that any historicization of ‘the past’ can ever be literally true, objective, fair, non-figural, non-positioned and so on, all of which opens up that which has happened ‘before now’ to interminable readings and rereadings. I want to argue [...] that this professed ability to secure what are effectively interpretive closures – the continuing raison d’etre of the professional historian in even these pluralist days despite sometime protestations – is not only logically impossible but also ethically, morally and politically desirable. […] The best (and perhaps the only) reason I can think of for saying that we might still need to have refigured histories that are simultaneously reflexive and emancipator is that they may help to prise open the mental strait-jacket of modernist historical thinking for the benefit of those who have not yet managed to get out of it.” Keith Jenkins, “On disobedient histories,” At the Limits of History, (2009) 150-1.

Historical narratives or historicisations have repeatedly failed to fulfil the roles assigned to them by the history profession and society in terms of their purported claims to truth, objectivity and fairness. So then, what explains their ongoing and ceaseless proliferation and circulation in contemporary academic and public cultures? What value is to be gained in society and academia from perpetuating such a redundant mode of historicisation?