Wednesday, August 18, 2021

History of the hunger for history

CBC News picks up on a trend we might not have expected: 

All the anger that lies behind what gets called cancel culture -- the removal or destruction of statues,  the demands for renaming -- is often taken as a condemnation of history itself. "It's been left out of the history books." "It's not taught in the schools."  

And yet the very vigour of the protest, it says here, is producing ...  an uptick in history enrollments: 

Amid Black Lives Matter protests across the globe, discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential schools sites and new consideration of previously lionized historical figures, interest in history classes appears to be growing as many Canadians are hungry to know more about our past to better offer insight into today.

 On a second thought, it seems inevitable. History is not the (long gone and barely retrievable) past. It's an argument about the past. When many people suddenly recognize an urgent need for new arguments about the past, it makes the whole field seem ... interesting again.

The article quotes John Lutz of the University of Victoria:

"As a history department, we're really embracing our social responsibility to both share the history and also the complexity of the history. People like John A. Macdonald were multifaceted. And I think our history is broad enough to tell the story both of John A. Macdonald as a father of Canada, but also the father of many of the policies that led to the displacement of Indigenous people."
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