Student Review of the Opening of the Centre for the Philosophy of History

Centre-OpeningLydia Birch reviews the opening of the Centre for the Philosophy of History at St Mary’s University College

On my way to the lecture, I have to admit I was especially sceptical about the post-modernist view of history and believed entirely that I would always remain a constructionist historian. Having had numerous cups of coffee, which I thought was essential so that I could pay attention, I sat down. After spilling coffee all down my front, Prof Alun Munslow, one of the lead thinkers in post-modernist history, began his lecture and whilst taking notes I started to become lost in his theory of history and the idea that there is no history in the past, there is only the past and history is what we make it today. Before, this had always seemed as a radical approach to me because throughout my education, history had always been a solid and definite subject, but Prof Munslow made me question this in a way which I had never approached before. After five minutes of being in the lecture I realised that the coffee was not necessary at all because the theory was incredibly endearing and engaging, it was a thrill to listen to this anti-narrative theory of history.MunslowProf Munslow touched on the idea that historians turn the past into a narrative and it was the imagination of historians that turn something that didn’t exist into existing, and as a result of doing this the history went from being fact into story. Thus creating the suspicion that there is no certainty anywhere, and I started to doubt something that had always been cemented fact in my mind, that the study of history is actually the study of historians and their judgements. He argued that not all history is fact because we will never be able to produce an exact representation of the past. Overall, my scepticism at the beginning seems completely irrational, and this lecture simply made me look at history in a completely new light, it leaves you with the question what it is to be studying history? And why would you study history?

Lydia Birch

Centre Launch

centre-opening-blog-1On Tuesday 1st October our new Centre was officially launched. A number of very eminent philosophers and theorists of history had agreed to give short papers and participate in a Q&A session, but before the talks began there was time for a sandwich lunch and some refreshment. At 1pm after some introductory words by Head of the School of Arts and Humanities Prof Lance Pettitt and myself, the event began with a fascinating paper by Prof Alun Munslow. This was followed by a Q&A session where Alun and Prof Keith Jenkins expertly fielded a variety of questions asked by the audience including some by our students.CakeThere was then a short break to cut the cake (expertly iced by Pauline) after which Dr Glenn Richardson awarded Graeme Ancient the Kenneth Breen Memorial Prize for History. We were pleased that the winner of the prize in 2012 (Sam Spranger) and the 2013 winner Graeme were both present at the launch. In fact the participation in the day by so many of our students was a highlight for us. The day concluded with very interesting papers by Martin Davies and Prof Nur Masalha who from different perspectives explored the intersection of politics and history. After the official close of proceedings a number of us retired to the Dolcé Vita Cafe for more cake and animated discussion. We would like to thank everyone who not only made the day such an enjoyable event, but also those people who have provided guidance and support in the establishment of the centre.Claire