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The Australian National University

'History and the Present' David Armitage Workshop - Allan Martin

Date and time

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - 16:15 - 17:30


McDonald Room, Menzies Library, ANU


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Historians have traditionally had three ethical responsibilities--to the past, the present and the future. Since the nineteenth century, professional historians have increasingly abandoned their duty to the future, focused their attention on the distance and strangeness of the past and shunned contemporary concerns to avoid the sin of anachronism or, even worse, "presentism". However, the past can only be reconstructed in the present, all historians must speak in (and to) their contemporaries and all our questions as historians reflect present concerns, even if those concerns arise only narrowly from current historiography. In this workshop, David Armitage will lead a discussion of the place of the present in the making of the past and reconsider the ethics of history amid our contemporary sense of crisis. Participants are encouraged to read the below attached articles in preparation for this discussion.

1. Hunt - Against Presentism
2. Hartog - Present of the Historian
3. Rubin - Useful Anachronisms

David Armitage is the Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History and former chair of the Department of History at Harvard University He is also an Honorary Professor of History at the University of Sydney and an Honorary Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge. He is the author or editor of seventeen books, among them The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (2000), The Declaration of Independence: A Global History (2007) and Foundations of Modern International Thought. His most recent publications are The Law of Nations in Global History (co-ed., 2017), Oceanic Histories (co-ed., 2017) and Civil Wars: A History in Ideas (2017).

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