Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary History’

The challenges of contemporary history

8 February 2011

By Kevin O’Sullivan

I’ve been thinking a lot (again) recently about how we do what we do. First, the squeeze on public sector spending and comments made in The Irish Times by Glen Dimplex chairman Martin Naughton– ‘it’s crazy for the Government to borrow money and then give it away on overseas aid’ (3 December 2010) – put me in mind of the travails of the Irish aid industry in the 1980s and the lessons they offer to today’s policy-makers. Then, as I sat distilling my thoughts – we’ve been here before, don’t you know – an invite came from the Irish Historical Society to take part in a roundtable discussion on the challenges of writing contemporary history. More time for reflection, further opportunity to think and talk out the future of our profession – what procrastinating historian wouldn’t jump at the chance?

Of course, holding opinions is one thing; articulating them is another. Read More

How do we write contemporary history anyway?

24 January 2011

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Ok, I know what you’re thinking: another piece of shameless self-promotion from a member of the Pue’s collective. Well I can promise you, this is far from that. We are living – in case you hadn’t noticed – through historical times. The fabric of our economic and social systems is unravelling before our eyes, while our politicians continue to play the ‘game’ of electioneering and party politics. I never thought I’d see the day when the spectre of a chess-playing Charles Haughey hovering over my name would seem less threatening than a click to the front page of The Irish Times. On Friday (21 January 2011), I even found myself agreeing with John Waters in the same newspaper (a momentous occasion indeed): ‘No matter how bad things get, our collective sense of what is important can always be diverted into the drama of politics, which we are prone to mistake for reality.’

But what – if anything – are historians to make of it? Read More