Why History Matters: The Past in the Present

A Sydney Ideas Forum
28 July, 2009

Watch the Forum

Co-presented by the Department of History, SOPHI, and the United States Studies Centre, at the University of Sydney


Why you should listen

Does History matter? How does the past shape the present? Should history play a role in shaping politics today? Should we be held accountable for the wrongs of the past? Does history divide or unite us? Join former Premier of NSW Bob Carr and prominent Australian and American scholars for an open discussion of these and other issues. How do studies of race and slavery, the American Civil War, Guantanamo Bay, the ANZACs and the Stolen Generations affect the way we see ourselves, and others? Panellists will also explore how and what we remember collectively, and how this contributes to our sense of patriotism, nationalism, or indeed, alienation. What does it mean to write, and embrace, more inclusive histories? Can new accounts of the past help us to create a better future? This forum takes up the challenge of determining how history matters, and who should take responsibility for it.


Bob Carr, former Premier of New South Wales

David Blight, Yale University, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001), and Director, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University

W. Fitzhugh Brundage, University of North Carolina, author of The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory (2005)

James T. Campbell, Stanford University, author of Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787-2005 (2006), and Chairman of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice

Jonathan Hansen, Harvard University, author of The Lost Promise of Patriotism: Debating American Identity, 1890-1920 (2003)

Glenda Sluga, University of Sydney, author of The Nation, Psychology and International Politics (2006)