Decolonizing History: Enquiry and Practice

Amanda Behm, Elisabeth Leake, Sarah Davenport-Miller, Emma Hunter, Christienna Fryar, Su Lin Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


On the back of the Royal Historical Society’s 2018 report on race and ethnicity, as well as ongoing discussions about ‘decolonising the syllabus’, we propose a conversation piece titled, ‘Decolonising History: Enquiry and Practice’. While ‘decolonisation’ has been a key framework for historical research, it has assumed increasingly varied and nebulous meanings in teaching, where calls for ‘decolonising’ are largely divorced from the actual end of empire. How does ‘decolonising history’ relate to the study of decolonisation? And can history, as a field of practice and study, be ‘decolonised’ without directly taking up histories of empire? Using the RHS report as a starting point, this conversation explores how we ‘decolonise history’. We argue that, rather than occurring through tokenism or the barest diversification of reading lists and course themes, decolonising history requires rigorous, critical study of empire, power, and political contestation, alongside close reflection on constructed categories of social difference. Bringing together scholars from several UK universities whose teaching and research ranges across modern historical fields, this piece emphasizes how the study of empire and decolonisation can bring a necessary global perspective to what tend to be framed as domestic debates on race, ethnicity, and gender.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
JournalHistory Workshop Journal
Issue number89
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2020

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