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

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