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Owning the Past: Academics, Communities and the Practice of Public History

May 30, 2014
University of Derby

Kedleston Road
Derby DE22 1GB
United Kingdom


  • History Lab Plus, Institute of Historical Research


Catherine Feely
University of Derby
Ruth Larsen
University of Derby
Ian Whitehead
University of Derby

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We are all public historians now. Or, at least, with the measurement of ‘research impact’ in the ongoing Research Excellence Framework, professional historians cannot afford not to think beyond the academy. But what sort of history has the ‘impact agenda’ led to? Has it led to genuine public engagement with the past or has it been skewed by the demands of research funders? How much has public engagement become an integral part of what professional historians do alongside teaching and research?

Discussion of the role of universities in public history tends to focus on how academic historians communicate their research to an audience beyond the University. However, it is perhaps in our teaching that we have the most direct impact on public understandings of the past. This symposium will explore how public history should be considered at the heart of what historians do inside the academy as well as outside it. How do we develop our students as critical consumers and creators of history? In what ways can involving students in the practise of public history enrich them and the wider community?

Related to this, we will also critically examine how postgraduate students and early-career historians are being encouraged to engage with a wider public. How is the ‘impact agenda’ affecting the career path of early-career historians? What sort of pressures does it put on new entrants to the profession and what support do they need in order to integrate research, teaching and public engagement? What does effective public engagement look like?

To register, please e-mail Dr Cath Feely:, clearly stating if you have any particular dietary requirements that we should be aware of.

There will a small registration charge of £10 for participants external to the University of Derby, payable on the day.

This symposium is supported by the University of Derby and History Lab Plus (the network for early-career historians run by the Institute of Historical Research).

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May 23, 2014, 9:00am BST

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