History Workshop Online relaunched in September with a new regular posting schedule. In this year-end round-up, co-editors Julia Laite and Mark Pendleton pick some of their personal highlights from the new HWO.
MP: I’ve been really enjoying the range of posts we’ve run on HWO over the last few months from early career historians to senior professors and historical researchers from the broader community. A personal favourite was the October feature on how memory of the Holocaust flashes up, in Walter Benjamin’s terms, ‘at a moment of danger.’ The ways histories are used politically in the present has long been a concern of the History Workshop movement and I thought that October’s authors Jordana Silverstein, Zhou Xun and Sander Gilman really captured that spirit.
JL: I agree. One of the main aims of HWO has been to foster politically and socially engaged history, and to encourage non-professional historians to engage with making history. One of my favourite posts from these past few months was the post that Becky Taylor wrote for us on the E15 mothers and the history of squatting. This was a powerful piece, and one that connected with an ongoing struggle against unfair housing policy, growing inequality, and homelessness. Taylor writes, ‘Squatting across the decades has sent a powerful message from the powerless, that ordinary people are no longer willing to have their needs put behind the rights of property owners.’ The success of the campaign around the New Era estate in London’s Hoxton last week is a reminder of just how powerful this message can indeed be.
MP: For sure – Becky’s post was a really important intervention into the ongoing housing crisis here in the UK. Another Histories of the Present piece that stood out for me as someone who works mostly on Japan was the Active Peacemaking in Japan and Australia article. The work of groups like this to actively build peace in the face of revisionist histories is even more important now that conservative Japanese Prime Minister Abe has been recently re-elected. This was one example of our work to continue and expand HWO’s international focus. Another internationally themed post that may have been missed by some readers is Say Burgin’s Why My Research Matters, which focused on her PhD work on the history of white anti-racist organising in the USA, work that seems really important to think about given what has been happening in the US over the last few months.
JL: I was also really glad to be able to use HWO as a forum to highlight the important ongoing research of the Legacies of British Slave Ownership Project, with a great post from Katie Donington in November. I think at a time when the world is so rightfully captivated by the ongoing protests against racism and police violence in the US it is extremely important for Britain to reflect upon its own role in the propagation and maintenance of the Atlantic slave trade, and the ways in which it benefited and continues to benefit from these past and present injustices. We would welcome other posts like this, that draw attention to ongoing research projects of social and political, as well as historical, significance. Donington’s post also connected to Catherine Hall’s article in that month’s History Workshop Journal, ‘Gendering Property, Racing Capital’, which also came out of the wider project and is available on open access.
MP: Of course our November articles all connected to the current issue of History Workshop Journal, a pattern we’ll be continuing in 2015.
JL: Definitely. We’ll be continuing to draw connections between HWO and HWJ contents and taking advantage of the opportunities of the online format to build on the text and image-based contributions in the print journal. But what we’d like most is to encourage more and wider participation from historians and those who are interested in history in all its forms. We’d be happy to host reflections on academic research, historical perspectives on current affairs, posts on material culture, exhibits, and performances, and of course continue to encourage research students to contribute as well.
MP: HWO is also a great place for academic features that work best published in ‘real time’: interviews, roundtables, conference reports. We encourage people to get in touch with ideas at email@example.com. I’ll be standing down as co-editor in the new year after 18 months at the HWO helm, to be replaced by Andrew Perchard. We’ll be back with our regular posting schedule from January 12th.
All of us at History Workshop Online wish our readers a very happy new year and look forward to hearing from you in 2015.