We all know that history isn’t just about facts; any historical event can be interpreted in a variety of different ways, and these interpretations can be used intentionally to serve particular interests and agendas – agendas which are often set by the state. A national museum, for example, is not a neutral presentation of that country’s history, but its exhibitions are constructed in order to present that nation’s historical self-image. The Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore – although housed in a building named in honour of Queen Victoria – makes little reference to British imperial rule, instead aiming to reconnect Singapore with its Chinese and Indian cultures of origin. Similarly, Hanoi’s National Museum of Vietnamese History provides a defence of Communism and independence by providing accounts of French imperial cruelty.
These and many other examples from across the globe are discussed in Jeremy Black’s latest book, Contesting History: Narratives of Public History, which we are proud to have published this month. The book provides an authoritative guide to the positive and negative applications of the past in the public arena and what this signifies for the meaning of history more widely.
Here’s what the author has to say about the book:
"‘History Wars’ are the central theme of my new book. In Contesting History: Narratives of Public History, I engage with the way in which the past has been and is presented. I focus on controversies and on the politicisation of the past. Globality is a key theme. Thus, my Prologue is set in the National Museum of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, and the book includes a full coverage of key episodes in Indian, Chinese and Japanese history. Yet, there are also issues closer to home, not least the National Curriculum in Britain."
One of the key elements of this book is its impressive scope, with examples from around the globe and from pre-1400 right up to the present day. Jeremy Black incorporates original material on governmental, social and commercial influences on the public use of history, with a host of in-depth case studies and coverage of public history in TV, film and other media. The book’s clear writing style, section headings and further reading lists allow readers to navigate their way through these examples with ease. We hope that anyone interested in the nature of history as a discipline, and how it shapes and changes our understanding of the past, will find the book a fascinating read – we certainly did!
Interesting in finding out more about the book? Just head on over to the book’s page on our website, where you can also purchase a copy or request an inspection copy. You can also see a free preview of the book by clicking here.