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How does Public History deal with legacies of empire and anti-imperialism?

16th - 17th December 2019


Reframing Empire: imperialism, anti-imperialism and public history

How does Public History deal with legacies of empire and anti-imperialism?


Professor Catherine Hall (UCL)

Professor Hakim Adi (Uni of Chichester)

Professor Martin Thomas (Australian National University)


How should empire be remembered, forgotten or imaginatively reconstructed? These questions play a key role in forging national identity in many countries in the twenty-first century and also, arguably, shape how they imagine their future role on the global stage.

Public History is often at the centre of these big debates. The issue of how former colonial powers engage with their imperial pasts, for example, has recently come to the fore through debates about how history should be taught at schools, whether contentious imperial actors should be publicly commemorated, and through questions about the provenance of many museum collections.

At the same time, citizens of former empire in postcolonial nations have pressed the need for those powers to come to terms with their colonial legacies.The issue of who is forgotten or remembered as participating in anti-imperial struggles is itself contentious, with some commentators arguing that nationalist political elites have shaped the story of anti-colonial struggles to aggrandize their own roles at the expense of other subaltern actors.


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